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Legislature finds big bucks for Bainbridge

Island park projects could receive funding of $3.5 million.

Bainbridge held out its plate, and the Legislature is poised to ladle it full.

Island park and open space projects should receive state funding totaling $3.471 million, when the state House and Senate vote on the 2005-07 capital budget this weekend. The legislative session ends Sunday, and a budget vote was possible Friday afternoon or this morning.

“I think it’s safe to say it’s going to be approved,” said state Sen. Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island), from the Senate floor Friday morning. “At this late date, I don’t think anybody’s going to scuttle (the budget) and say, ‘let’s start over.’

“There’s a great deal of good news for Bainbridge, the district and Kitsap County,” he added.

Projects included in the capital budget include:

• Pritchard Park acquisition and Japanese American internment memorial development: $2.5 million;

• Close property acquisition next to Gazzam Lake: $623,000;

• Blakely Harbor Park bridge and trail network development: $141,000;

• Bainbridge Island Historical Society preservation programs: $207,000.

Kitsap County shares in the spoils, with funding earmarked for parks in Hansville and North Kitsap, a Central Kitsap greenway and a new arts center at Olympic Community College, among other projects.

The infusion of state funds puts the island community within striking distance on two coveted property acquisitions.

The city has until the end of the year to buy the second half of the Wyckoff property on the south side of Eagle Harbor. The land is envisioned as a park honoring the late Joel Pritchard, an island Republican who served in Congress and as the state’s lieutenant governor. With the state funds, another $600,000 or so in private money would be needed to complete the purchase.

The 64-acre Close property links Gazzam Lake with the shoreline, and is focus of ongoing fund-raising by the Bainbridge Island Land Trust.

Improvements to Blakely Harbor Park have been discussed for years, but languished for want of funding.

“What’s really cool is, it’s such a tight budget,” Councilwoman Christine Rolfes said.

She and Mayor Darlene Kordonowy credited Olympia’s largesse to the island’s prior commitment of local open space bond funds to park projects. That made an attactive match for state monies, and edged out projects in other communities.

Rolfes noted that park proponents met more than a year ago with key players to present a list of island priorities.

“It pays to be organized,” she said.

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