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Road closure gets review -- News Roundup

Zalmai “Zeke” Zahir inspects a topographical model of the IslandWood grounds during grand-opening festivities Saturday. - DEE AXELROD/Staff Writer
Zalmai “Zeke” Zahir inspects a topographical model of the IslandWood grounds during grand-opening festivities Saturday.
— image credit: DEE AXELROD/Staff Writer

City public works officials are looking at a temporary bypass lane for emergency vehicle travel on Lynwood Center Road.

The road was closed this week to all thru-traffic between Emerald Way and Baker Hill, to repair slide damage from last winter.

Construction of a retaining wall and reconstruction of the roadbed are expected to take five weeks.

Bainbridge fire officials have complained that the road closure will hurt emergency response times to five south-end neighborhoods – Lynwood Center, Pleasant Beach, Point White, Crystal Springs and Baker Hill.

Ken Guy, fire department executive director, and fire Chief Jim Walkowski took their concerns to last week’s city council meeting.

The council’s public works committee will take up the issue at its next meeting, at 3 p.m. Sept. 30.

Public Works Director Randy Witt said this week that the contractor has been asked to provide cost estimates for a temporary bypass lane around the construction. Also on the table is an accelerated work schedule.

But any changes would come with additional project costs, and would need city council approval.

Also, Witt said, a bypass would run afoul of fences and trees on neighboring properties, and it is unclear whether the city has right of way there.

With the closure, all traffic has been detoured via Blakely Avenue. Fire officials say the detour adds 45 seconds to response times for aid cars, and as much as two minutes for fire trucks coming from the Bucklin Hill fire hall.

The department tries to keep emergency response times to under five minutes. Guy conceded that response times to some south-end neighborhoods are already closer to seven minutes, even without the detour.

About 80 feet of roadway is being torn up for reconstruction, and material excavated to a depth of 12-16 feet.

“Clearly, it’s an inconvenience and will take longer to get around,” Witt said.

– Douglas Crist

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***IslandWood opens doors

A weekend of festivities marked the opening of IslandWood, formerly known as the Puget Sound Environmental Learning Center.

A trio of events included an invitation-only brunch and dinner on Saturday, and public tours of the facility the following day.

Although pilot programs in children’s outdoor education were launched at the center this past spring, this month marks formal completion of the environmental center, under construction for two and a half years.

The $23 million center, located on a 255-acre parcel next to Blakely Elementary School, was created and partially funded by Debbi and Paul Brainerd.

Debbi Brainerd told guests that a campaign to raise $52 million in operating funds is nearly complete.

More than 1,000 visitors, including U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, state Rep. Phil Rockefeller and former Bainbridge mayor Dwight Sutton, attended the Saturday morning celebration.

The event featured a dedication of Native American artist Vi Hilbert’s 40-foot-tall carved “house post,” a central supporting pole in the center’s Great Hall.

Hilbert, a Lushootseed Tribe elder widely recognized for her efforts to preserve and disseminate Native American culture, fabricated the house post with a team of Native American artists that included members of the Suquamish, Lower Elwha S’Klallam, Arapaho and Haida First Nations.

The dedication ceremony also recognized the architects, construction workers, artists and island teachers who collaborated on the design and construction of the site, as well as the center’s staff.

“These are the people who first supported the vision and made it happen,” Debbi Brainerd said. “It’s your ideas, hard work and commitment to putting kids first that made this happen.”

Another thousand visitors strolled the grounds Sunday and participated in “learning exercises” given by educators and naturalists, to introduce guests to the center’s technology-supported earth stewardship.

Upcoming events at the center include weekend adult and family classes, and week-long visits by 3,500 Puget Sound third- through sixth-graders over the school year.

– Dee Axelrod

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