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'The beauty is in the silence'

City Open Space Commission member Leonora Cross begins the steep hike back up from the shoreline of the Close-Foecke property, purchased this week by the city. The 64-acre property links Gazzam Lake with the banks of Port Orchard Bay. - RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo
City Open Space Commission member Leonora Cross begins the steep hike back up from the shoreline of the Close-Foecke property, purchased this week by the city. The 64-acre property links Gazzam Lake with the banks of Port Orchard Bay.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo

It has been called the most outstanding large parcel left undeveloped on the island.

Mathematically, rhetorically, and now permanently true, the 64-acre Close-Foecke property northwest of Gazzam Lake is joining the community’s open space roster.

The Bainbridge City Council Wednesday unanimously approved public purchase of the property with funds from the city’s land preservation program.

“Where are you going to find another 60 acres on Bainbridge Island these days?” Councilman Bill Knobloch asked before voting in favor of the purchase. “You’re not. So, bravo.”

Under a three-way agreement, the city will make a $1.25 million down-payment with open space bond funds, at which point the property will be deeded by the owner to the Bainbridge Island Land Trust.

The trust will have three years to raise the balance of $1.25 million through private means or grants.

If the fund drive is not successful, part of the property could be resold, or the owner could take some of it back. But that would not necessarily entail development; owner Patricia Close of Redmond, Open Space Commission member Leonora Cross said, “is deeply committed to preserving this as open space.”

Commission and land trust members had no trouble finding support among council members, several of whom had recently toured the property.

A slide presentation revealed the parcel’s dense forests and dramatic ravines, which lead down to 550-feet of undisturbed shoreline along Port Orchard Bay.

“Pictures don’t even do the property justice,” Cross said. “You have to go look at it to appreciate it.”

She added, “You can hear the beauty in the silence. It’s dead quiet down there.”

BILT board president Frank Stowell said the upcoming fund drive will be modeled after the highly successful effort that raised more than $1 million to preserve Blakely Harbor Park.

He praised the Close property deal as showing the value of partnerships among groups committed to the open space cause.

While supporting the purchase, one Springridge Road resident urged the council to approve the deal only with the proviso that no access be allowed from Springridge. That raised more questions of the adequacy of parking at the Marshall Road entrance to Gazzam Lake Park, the primary point of entry to the Close land.

But several council members said those questions were beyond the scope of the evening’s discussion, and that a stewardship program would be developed in the future.

Some 98.13 acres have now been preserved under the open space program, with funds spent or committed totaling $4.33 million.

Community Events, April 2014

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