Pritchard Park gets $2m boost from feds

Appropriation brings fund-raising effort to 40 percent of $12m target.

The vision: a vast park with sweeping views of the Olympics and Cascades, where visitors can wander woodland trails and sandy shores – and a walk path where World War history was made.

Bainbridge took a step closer to realizing that vision this week as the U.S. Senate approved $2 million for the acquisition of a 50-acre strip of land on the south side of Eagle Harbor – the proposed site of a waterfront park and a memorial to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

The federal funds were approved Thursday as part of the Senate’s $328 billion omnibus budget bill, a version of which cleared the House of Representatives in December. The park monies are included in the annual appropriations bill for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as part of that agency’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation program.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-1st District), who championed the park and memorial in the House, praised the efforts of Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell in securing Senate approval, calling it “tremendous news for the community as a whole.”

“It’s like finding a jewel in the rough,” he said. “And to be able to have in public ownership such a unique piece of property – that doesn’t happen very often.”

The windfall brings to $5 million the public funds pledged to the acquisition, including $500,000 of the city’s open space bond money.

The Bill Point land was once home to the Wyckoff wood treatment plant, which left behind some million gallons of creosote and other toxic chemicals.

Although that contamination has been contained and much of the shoreline restored by the Environmental Protection Agency, about eight acres remain part of an ongoing Superfund clean-up.

That remediation, which complicates development on the site, helped the city secure an option to purchase the property once clean – at the bargain price of $8 million.

Sallie Maron, chair of Friends of Pritchard Park fund-raising group, said the city is working to raise at least $5.5 million toward the purchase of the property before the end of 2004, when the current appraisal expires.

An additional $4 million, of which $500,000 in state funds has been committed, is needed to build the memorial at the neighboring Taylor Avenue road end, already in public ownership.

Maron said that her group will launch its local fund-raising campaign in March, which will feature public tours of the site.

“What we really hope for is that broad-based support from the entire island,” she said, “because we see this as a project that embraces so much history, so much possibility for public use.”

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