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Islanders get a new waterfront park

Besides its 600 feet of sandy beach on Eagle Harbor, the Hall property also boasts a good stand of second-growth firs. (L-R) Tom Cunningham, Dave Shorett and Doug Nelson toured the property after its recommendation as an open space purchase. - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
Besides its 600 feet of sandy beach on Eagle Harbor, the Hall property also boasts a good stand of second-growth firs. (L-R) Tom Cunningham, Dave Shorett and Doug Nelson toured the property after its recommendation as an open space purchase.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

Islanders have a new beach.

And a new forest.

And a new marsh.

Natural features as varied as any Bainbridge has to offer come with the 12-acre Hall property, approved for purchase Wednesday by the Bainbridge Island City Council.

Purchase price was $790,000, with funds coming from the $8 million in open space bonds approved by voters last fall.

“This is a wonderful piece of property,” Councilwoman Christine Nasser Rolfes said. “We’re all going to enjoy it.”

The property is easily identifiable from the ferry, a swath of green between the Hawley neighborhood and Wing Point. It includes a hodgepodge of terrain – 600 feet of sandy beach and tide flats, marsh, forested slope, year-round stream.

Its central location – the beach is within walking distance of the ferry terminal, while the upland forest includes trails down from Wing Point Road – was as attractive to park advocates as its natural features were to conservationists.

The property is said to have been a favorite summer campground of Native American tribes, which used it through the early 1900s. It has been owned by the Hall family since the late 1940s.

Mary Hall, who resides nearby, recalled growing up with the beach as a playground. “We still swim down there today,” she said. “The water is so warm and lovely, and the beach is sandy.”

The parcel has been on and off the market since 1996, and has generated interest from various developers and private parties looking to build. A purchase option was secured by the Bainbridge Island Land Trust earlier this year, after an appraisal brought the asking price down.

“We felt, and the appraiser felt, that it was only a matter of time before this property gets snatched up,” open space commissioner Dwight Sutton said.

The purchase was the second under the city’s open space program. In August, the council approved purchase of a half-acre parcel at the end of Rockaway Beach, popular with local divers for its wild rock formations and rich undersea life.

Between the two purchases, the city has spent $1.375 million of the $8 million approved by voters, in both cases for expensive waterfront.

Open space commissioner Leonora Cross told the council Wednesday that the short list for future purchases includes farmland, forests and trail connections.

But council members held out the possibility that several building lots could be carved out of the Hall property’s upland area, to offset the purchase cost.

The beach is now the fifth-longest stretch of public waterfront on the island, behind Fort Ward and Fay Bainbridge state parks, the city’s Waterfront Park and the park district’s Blakely Harbor Park.

The park has yet to be named, although family members would like to see it called “Hall’s Cove.”

Neighbor Viki Walaskay told the council she “hadn’t wiped the smile off her face” since reading in the newspaper that the parcel was under consideration for a park. Walaskay said she looked forward to enjoying it with her young children.

Open space commissioners said the parcel will be require little in the way of improvements, although the trails leading from Wing Point to the beach are somewhat overgrown.

With the addition of signs and possibly a designated parking area, the park could be open within weeks.

“Maybe in December, we will no longer be trespassing,” Nasser Rolfes said.

Community Events, April 2014

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