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News Roundup -- City buys Bentryn land/Triathlon film debuts today/King to head Island School/Ferries halted by backpack

City buys Bentryn land

Although no wine was uncorked, the City Council felt a gush of the warm fuzzies after agreeing to purchase part of an island winery property Wednesday.

“What a feel-good moment,” said a broad-smiling Mayor Darlene Kornonowy, after the council’s unanimous vote to purchase 11.5 acres of farmland owned by the Gerard Bentryn family. “This is a terrific moment for our community.”

In a deal brokered by the city Open Space Commission, the city will spend just over $770,000 to purchase the parcel at the northwest corner of the Bentryn farm on Day Road East.

The purchase brings to 60 the number of acres the city has preserved for agricultural use.

The property neighbors other recent farm purchases, including lands owned by berry farmer Akio Suyematsu and the Morales Farm on Lovgreen Road.

Much of the 11.5 acres is currently farmed by about six friends of the Bentryn family free-of-charge. Crops include wine grapes, strawberries, raspberries and a variety of vegetables.

Brian MacWhorter, who has grown fruits and vegetables on the property for over three years, said island residents now have an incredible asset in their hands.

“I hope the community understands the gift that’s been given them,” he said. “The real value of the farm is in education. For decades, kids have been able to go there and learn where their food comes from.”

The property will remain under the Bentryn family’s management for another two years under a lease agreement, but many growers hope to stay long after.

MacWhorter hopes to teach young people about small-scale agriculture through internships.

He also sees the farm as a testament to the history of the island’s Japanese population.

“This property is a living monument to the hard work and suffering Japanese farmers went through,” he said. “I hope other people will be able to see that.”

Suyematsu, who grows berries on the property and a nearby parcel, has farmed the area for over 60 years.

His parents purchased the property in 1928 but were interned during World War II. They returned to the property after the war, growing berries and other crops until Suyematsu sold a large portion to the Bentryns over 20 years ago.

MacWorter said all the growers on the property have benefited from Suyematsu’s mentorship and generosity.

The Bentryns said they’ll retire from the wine-making business, but plan to maintain the area’s community spirit by restructuring their commercial winery into a nonprofit community organization run by its workers.

Much of the winery’s future earnings would be donated to local organizations, Gerard Bentryn said.

“We want to give the community a sense of ownership of the farm and its products,” he said.

Councilwoman Deborah Vann was pleased to hear the winery would continue after the Bentryns retire.

“Now I don’t have to run out and buy every bottle,” she said.

Bentryn said he had “terribly mixed emotions” about selling the land, citing concerns by farmers that use his land who were wary of new ownership that could dismantle the farm’s communal operations.

“There was some fear in our farming community,” he said. “We’ve been running our farm as a sort of socialist venture.”

Bentryn encouraged the city to establish low-rent housing on the property for farmers. He added that purchasing the property is not enough to support island farmers.

“The community needs to go to the farmers’ market,” he said. “Go out there and be part of the island by eating things from the island.”

The city will create a farm advisory board next month composed of two councilors, two members of the Trust for Working Landscapes and two local farmers.

One of the board’s first tasks will be to hire a consultant to help craft the administrative policies of a new “agricultural district.”

– Tristan Baurick

Triathlon film debuts today

Triathlon Training and Racing Disorder is an affliction that may appear new to islanders, but at least six residents are known sufferers.

“Northwest 2004: The Twelve,” a film showing today at Bainbridge Cinemas, offers the world’s first glimpse of a disease afflicting the sad masses who carelessly combine bicycling, running and swimming into one grueling event.

“Okay, so I invented TTRD,” said island filmmaker Kevin Lynch. “I hired some actors in lab coats to go talk about the 12 symptoms.

“But the rest is real.”

The drama of six islanders enduring one of the world’s most challenging sporting events is almost palpable in the film, Lynch said.

“It crackles with energy, tension, pain and fear,” he said, adding that there’s also a good amount of humor too. “I try and add some mirth to it – and there’s some crashes for the NASCAR folks.”

Lynch filmed triathlons in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, California and Hawaii over eight months.

The 90-minute film was made with a largely island-based crew capturing the misery and glory of island athletes, including Jim West, Larry and Nancy Miggens, Clo Copass, Julia Brunzell and Piper Ross.

“The Twelve” is Lynch’s sixth film about triathlons, a subject close to his heart.

“I bike, run, swim. It’s what I do,” he said. “I was told in film school to film what I love. My girlfriend said no to me filming her, so I film triathlons.”

The film’s premier at Seattle’s REI store on Monday was said to be well-received, with many attendees unable to find seating. Lynch has booked a tour following today’s showing with visits to various cities in the Pacific Northwest, B.C. and California.

Lynch said he was on-edge for the premier as he listened intently for the audience’s response to the film. He said the bike crash scenes elicited the most vocal reactions.

“My ears were as big as Dumbo’s at the premier,” he said. “But it’s always the crashes that get them.”

The film begins at 10 a.m. today at Bainbridge Cinemas. The event is free and suitable for all ages.

“The Twelve” will also be available for purchase at the Gym at the Pavilion, Classic Cycle and at Lynch’s website, www.pmx5.com.

– Tristan Baurick

King to head Island School

Trish King will become the new head of the Island School, replacing Kelly Webster, who will retire 28 years after she co-founded the school.

“Kelly has created an incredible foundation for our students, parents and ‘extended family,’” said Shelley Neeleman, president of the school’s board of trustees. “We are deeply grateful for her dedication and contributions, and we are excited that Trish will continue to build on her legacy.”

Webster opened the Island School in a garage in 1977 with Nancy and Dave Leedy, who both still teach at the school.

The school now has 25 faculty and staff serving nearly a hundred students in kindergarten through fifth grades on its modern, wooded campus on Day Road East on Bainbridge Island.

King is currently the founding principal of Portland Jewish Academy’s high school, where she has served for the past year.

She previously was head of Sunriver Preparatory School in Bend, Oregon, for seven years.

Her education career spans nearly 30 years in Central Oregon and Louisiana, with extensive teaching and administrative experience. She has a bachelor of science in education from Louisiana State University and has completed graduate work at Lewis and Clark College.

“Trish matched every single one of the qualities we sought,” Neeleman said, “from ‘creating and maintaining a clear vision for the school’ to ‘getting down on her knees to play with children.’”

King’s appointment will take effect at the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year.

Ferries halted by backpack

A student discarding his backpack and school books prompted a lengthy shutdown of Bainbridge-Seattle ferry service Tuesday.

The young man departed the Puyallup at the Winslow terminal at about 3:45 p.m., leaving behind what was described as a “suspicious package,” the Washington State Patrol said.

A witness said the man “quickly dropped a backpack into a trash can,” then left the boat.

State Troopers were advised, and the ferry and surrounding area were evacuated. Vessel, walk-on and vehicular traffic were diverted while a bomb squad was called in.

The package was determined to be safe at around 6:30 p.m., and the terminal reopened half an hour later.

The owner of the backpack was located at his residence, and told authorities that he disposed of the backpack because it was his last day of school in Seattle.

No crime was committed, and no charges will be filed, the WSP said.

Response to the incident and perceived threat, which delayed traffic for several hours and drew the attention of camera crews from the Seattle television stations, was appropriate, the WSP said.

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