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A new bridge to the past

Under proposed improvements to Winslow Way, concrete sidewalks would be replaced by wide wooden walkways where the road crosses the ravine. If approved by the council, construction would begin this coming winter or next spring. - Courtesy of Charles Wenzlau
Under proposed improvements to Winslow Way, concrete sidewalks would be replaced by wide wooden walkways where the road crosses the ravine. If approved by the council, construction would begin this coming winter or next spring.
— image credit: Courtesy of Charles Wenzlau

Time was when crossing the ravine at Winslow Way came with the telltale slatted clatter of a wooden bridge.

Two artists would have the city revisit those days – bringing back the echoing toc-toc beneath pedestrians’ feet – as redesign of the island’s “Gateway” district ambles on.

Their proposal would see construction of two, 10-foot wide pedestrian boardwalks, bridging the ravine on each side of the current vehicle way and replacing its concrete sidewalks. The improvements would harken back to Winslow’s past, they say, and would project passersby more intimately into the greenery beside them.

“Yes, it’s an obstruction, but it’s a great obstruction,” said artist Maggie Simpson of the ravine, Winslow’s signature topographic feature. “We’re looking at making it a special experience to cross it, not a grand one, but a quiet one.”

The wooden walkways are among several improvements to be discussed in a presentation before the Bainbridge Island City Council this evening.

Other ideas include suspended overhead lighting to create an archway effect; construction of planted biofiltration swales as part of the stormwater system; and retention of wooden utility poles.

While the trend has been toward undergrounding lines in the urban core, the artists say creosote-treated poles through the ravine corridor serve as aesthetic and symbolic ties to the former Wyckoff plant across the harbor.

Smith, artist Buster Simpson and consultants from the Seattle firm KPG Architects were commissioned to craft treatments for the upcoming road reconstruction between Ericksen Avenue and the highway.

Construction of sidewalk and bike amenities, and changes to the Ericksen/ Winslow Way intersection, will begin this summer, said Randy Witt, director of public works. With council approval, formal design of the ravine corridor will begin this summer, with construction late in the year or next spring.

The planning work is part of a larger, ongoing effort by the mayor-appointed Gateway Advisory Committee to bring aesthetic unity to – some would say, to reclaim – the ferry terminal area. It’s the first corner of the island trodden by ferry-borne visitors, yet is remarkable mostly for its vacant lots and several careworn buildings.

A long-term vision could include more public art, visible from the ferry as it approaches the terminal and passengers travel through the building. Highway-area treatments could emphasize the island’s function as link to the Olympic Peninsula.

“What Buster and I ended up seeing is, we’re kind of working on a sequence of gateways rather than one grand gateway,” Smith said.

The first centerpiece would be the wooden walkways, although Smith said that the notion seems to have dawned on several local design professionals at the same time.

“It’s not like a radical or profound idea,” Smith said. “It’s kind of in the zeitgeist.”

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