Memorial plans are fine-tuned

The first phase will include a trail, boardwalk and landscaping.

Sixty-three years after island residents of Japanese descent were forced from their homes for wartime internment, construction is about to begin on a long-awaited memorial to their exile.

Crews are expected to begin work on the Nikkei Internment and Exclusion Memorial in April, clearing and grading the land in preparation for the restoration of wetlands, native plantings and the stabilization of the shoreline on the property.

Trails, a boardwalk, pathways, a kiosk, a new road, parking lot and bus turn-around will follow on the 8-acre site at the western edge of Pritchard Park at Bill Point, and should be complete by fall, organizers say.

Visitors will then be able to walk the property and envision all that is planned there in the future

“When you actually start clearing the land, it becomes real for people,” said Clarence Moriwaki, a member of the memorial committee.

Under Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 120,000 Japanese-Americans were removed from their homes and farms on the West Coast and detained in camps.

The island’s nikkei memorial will include a 276-foot “story” wall, representing the 276 Japanese-Americans who were relocated from Bainbridge. It will also include a long, narrow pathway to a 150-foot-long pier, designed to help visitors experience the walk that the families made to the Eagledale ferry dock that once stood on the property.

It was from that dock that families departed Bainbridge for the Manzanar internment camp in the Mojave Desert, bringing only the possessions they could carry.

Designs for the memorial were drafted several years ago by Bainbridge Island architect John Paul Jones, but they were revised this past year, in part due to access issues and the discovery of a wetland on the property.

The project has also undergone numerous environmental surveys, as the property north of Eagle Harbor Drive and east of Taylor Avenue provides habitat for bald eagles, bull trout, and coho and chinook salmon.

The new design includes water features such as cascading pools, said Bob Crowell, an engineer who volunteered to usher the project through the permitting process.

Final permits are being reviewed by the city hearing examiner and a decision is due in early April, city planner Joshua Machen said.

The first phase of construction is being funded, in part, by a $500,000 state grant that was set to expire this summer. By fall, people should be able to stroll the property.

A campaign to raise the final $3 million to complete the project will get under way in coming months, funding the pier and story wall in phase two, and the interpretive center, meeting rooms and restrooms in phase three.

“So many people believe in this,” Crowell said, naming dozens of islanders who had donated thousands of hours of work to the project. “People love this park, and they support this project. I am proud of this community; they know what happened was wrong.”

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To give

People interested in supporting Bainbridge Island WWII Nikkei Internment and Exclusion Memorial can call 855-9038 for more information; tax-dedictible donations may be sent to P.O. Box 10355, Bainbridge Island, WA, 98110-0355.

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