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City fetes park purchase -- News Roundup

City fetes park purchase

More than 60 volunteers and public officials gathered in City Hall Thursday evening, to fete public purchase of 22 acres of the former Wyckoff property on Bill Point and a new federal grant to help pay for more land still.

Dan Silver, trustee overseeing the Wyckoff land, signed over a deed for the western half of the 50-acre property to the city and the Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District.

“We can just be thankful we live in a community where this kind of project can be pulled off,” said Christine Rolfes, City Council chair and a member of the citizen task force that has worked toward property acquisition.

Funded by grants and private donations, the $4.9 million deal helps create a waterfront park honoring the late Joel Pritchard, who represented Bainbridge Island in Congress for 12 years and also served as Washington’s lieutenant governor.

The portion around Taylor Avenue will be the site of a Japanese American internment memorial, while the sandy beach stretching to the east is already open for public enjoyment.

The city, the Trust for Public Land and other groups now have their sights set on the balance of the Wyckoff property, polluted by a creosote plant and currently undergoing cleanup by the federal government. To purchase the remaining 27 acres, backers must raise another $3.1 million by the end of 2005.

That effort got a significant boost with the announcement Thursday of a $500,000 federal grant secured by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

The fund drive will use as its campaign slogan “Get the Point,” for the shape of the land jutting out at the mouth of Eagle Harbor.

“We have absolutely no doubt in the world that it’s going to happen,” acquisition task force member Val Tollefson said.

– Douglas Crist

Bentryns, city close to deal

The city Open Space Commission and the Bentryn family have agreed in concept to public purchase of half of the Bentryns’ farmland at Day Road.

The proposed purchase – for the appraised value of $770,000 for 11.5 acres – will be discussed at the commission’s next meeting, 4:45 p.m. Dec. 8 at City Hall, with a goal of putting it before the City Council for approval by the end of the year.

“It’s the most visible and high-quality farmland on the island,” said Andy Maron, Open Space Commission chair.

Under the agreement, the city would purchase the northernmost portion of the Bentryns’ L-shaped farm, an area that includes a popular produce stand off Day Road East.

The city would also get easements for trail connections around the rest of the farm, and development rights on the some of the remaining Bentryn land to preclude future development.

The Bentryns would retain ownership of the southeast portion of the property, where they operate a commercial winery.

The family would continue to manage the city’s portion of the property – currently cultivated at no charge by several growers – for at least two years, while the city works out a process by which to manage working farms.

The property would be continguous with several previous open space acquisitions to the east and south, including the Suyematsu and Morales farms, and a Christmas tree farm that was donated to the city.

“We’ve all been talking for a long time about an ‘agricultural district,’ and this is a linchpin for that,” Maron said. “It gives us enough land to make that work. With this, we have 46 acres total, which is pretty awesome.”

The purchase would be the 15th under the city’s open space preservation program, bankrolled by an $8 million bond issue approved in 2001.

– Douglas Crist

Owners chide parking tax

The commercial parking industry took shots at a proposal to double taxes on Winslow lots at Wednesday’s Bainbridge City Council meeting.

“My phone’s been ringing off the hook from owners and consumers since you proposed this,” said Bob Dupree, a regional manager for Diamond Parking Service. “Consumers are already faced with increasing rates for ferries, fuel, insurance and the economy is still bad.”

Proposed by Councilman Bob Scales last month, the increase would raise the current parking lot tax rate from 12 to 24 percent.

The proposal would also boost the daily rate at the city-owned lot near the ferry terminal from $7.25 to $10.

The added revenue would be split between non-motorized transportation improvement projects and roads repairs.

Jack Maher, representing the Griffiths Trust, which owns a parking lot on Winslow Way, said customers, not owners, will bear the brunt of the tax increase.

“The bulk of the tax has to be passed on to the consumer, most of whom are city residents,” Maher said.

But council members weren’t budging, expressing unified support for the measure.

“We need to put money into non-motorized transportation,” said Councilwoman Deborah Vann. “If we see a decrease in people parking, that’s great. We’ll have less emissions and cleaner air.”

While supporting the tax and rate increases, Councilwoman Christine Rolfes said Scales’ initial revenue increase estimates were overstated.

Scales foresaw a $380,000 budget boost with the increases. But, taking into account the range of prices private lots charge and a decrease in users, Rolfes believes revenues will likely not top $300,000.

“We need to look at a more realistic scenario,” she said.

The council will revisit the parking lot tax issue at their next meeting on Wednesday, starting at 6 p.m.

– Tristan Baurick

Dine out, shop for schools

Islanders who enjoy the winter ritual of holiday shopping and dinner out can do both on Dec. 9, while supporting local schools at the same time.

Next Thursday is the fifth annual “BEST Night Out,” when 13 local retailers and seven restaurants donate a portion of the evening’s proceeds to the Bainbridge Education Support Team.

Retailers participating in the fund-raiser from 4-7 p.m. Thursday include B.I. Cycle, Bainbridge Bakers, Blackbird Bakery (2-6 p.m.), Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, Dana’s Showhouse, Eagle Harbor Books, Fox Paw, Island Sports, Paper Products, Radio Shack, Sole Mates Shoes and The Traveler.

Restaurants donating their proceeds from 5:30-8:30 p.m. include Bainbridge Cinema Concessions, B.I. Sushi House, Big Star Diner, Casa Rojas, Four Swallows, San Carlos and Doc’s Marina Grill.

Last year’s event raised $4,000 for BEST, a nonprofit, volunteer organization that funds the purchase of special classroom materials such as microscopes and atlases, and teacher workshops and training, including a summer institute.

“We really feel it’s important to support our teachers, and they really appreciate it,” said BEST president Peggy Saksa.

“It’s a very demanding job, without a lot of financial rewards in this society, so whatever we can do to make their lives richer and more meaningful, the better they can teach the students on Bainbridge,” she added.

Since BEST was founded 18 years ago, “we’ve covered (the costs) of a lot of things the district couldn’t cover due to state cutbacks in staff development, such as seminars and creative teacher grants,” Saksa said.

BEST raises about $115,000 a year, most of it during its phone-a-thon before Thanksgiving. The nonprofit has raised more than $1 million for island schools since its inception.

– Rhonda Parks Manville

Community Events, April 2014

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