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City issues DNS for Strawberry Plant Park project; plans move forward

The city issued an environmental determination of nonsignificance Friday for a city project that will reshape the shoreline of Eagle Harbor's Strawberry Plant Park.

The city's determination allows the project to bypass a full review under the State Environmental Policy Act. Public comments on the project will be accepted through May 1.

The work, led by city planner Peter Namtvedt Best, would remove concrete bulkheads and decrease the amount shoreline, with the intent of creating new marshland and nearhshore habitat. The proposal includes provisions for an over-water viewing structure, a small bridge to a neighboring property and a launch for small watercraft.

Work on the project could begin this fall.

Strawberry Plant Park is being jointly developed by the city and the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park and Recreation District.

The city is restoring the shoreline of the property, with grant money from Elliot Bay Trustee Council (using settlement money from the Wyckoff Superfund site) and the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The state Department of Natural Resources removed creosoted pilings at the park earlier this year.

The park district will develop the uplands as a park, solidifying plans on its portion of the property over the next two months. It will likely include a small parking area, bathroom, interpretive signage, a lawn and picnic amenities.

Park board member Lee Cross said the board plans to host public forums on elements to be included in the park planning. The city held a design charrette in September that was largely focused on gathering input from neighbors and interest groups.

"One of the things we really want to do is have at least one public meeting where we invite everyone on the island, not just neighbors," Cross said. "Neighbors are important but this is a public park."

The park board hopes to have its plans in place soon, in part because the city has offered to remove concrete on the upland portion of the park, and replace it with fill removed from the shoreline. Namtvedt Best has assured the park board that the fill would be tested for contaminates and would not contain concrete rubble, which will be carried off-site. The fill would raise the ground above the shoreline by about three feet.

The park board has also been negotiating the length of the viewing platform. The platform is meant to replace earthen pier on the east side of the site. City plans included a platform that would extend to the end of the existing pier. At a Tuesday site visit, park board members said they would like it to extend farther, perhaps to where the outermost pilings once stood. The issue has yet to be resolved.

A group of islanders is still concerned that the city's plans for the shoreline will prohibit active use on the site's waterfront, and want to see more of the historic structures preserved. The property was formerly home to a strawberry packing plant, and later a concrete plant and waterfront warehouse.

At an April 9 park board meeting, Jim McNett, president of the city's Historic Preservation Commission, said his commission will recommend Strawberry Plant Park be included on the city's Historic Register because of its association with the strawberry industry.

Islander Jim Taylor said he was disturbed that the remnants of the islands once-booming strawberry packing industry were being removed. The city's plan would also disconnect people from the water, he said.

"I feel with this plan we're creating a very beautiful thing for people to look at and not use," Taylor said.

Plans and a summary of the project are available on the city's Strawberry Plant page.


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