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City taps brakes on Strawberry Plant Park project

Strawberry Plant Park project protesters arrive at City Hall Wednesday. - Tad Sooter/Staff Photo
Strawberry Plant Park project protesters arrive at City Hall Wednesday.
— image credit: Tad Sooter/Staff Photo

It was dry outside City Hall Wednesday evening, but about 30 citizens arrived at the council meeting dressed to abandon ship.

The life jacket-clad islanders flooded the meeting in symbolic protest of the city's proposed shoreline restoration project at Strawberry Plant Park. Several spoke in favor of greater shoreline access and preservation of historic structures on the site.

The city was ready with a response.

City Manager Mark Dombroski said the city plans to organize a joint meeting with the Bainbridge Metropolitan Park and Recreation District board to review plans for the park, and take comment and questions from the public.

"This project has been going on since 2004 and a lot has been forgotten and a lot has been misunderstood," Dombroski said.

The park district and city jointly manage the property. The park district will be developing the upland portions.

Dombroski said he had also instructed staff to cease active planning on the project while continuing the permitting process, until a firmer consensus on the park's future could be reached. The project has already missed its fall construction window and the spring of 2010 is now being targeted.

The city's current site plan would create new marshland and nearshore habitat by removing existing concrete bulkheads and a large portion of shoreline.

Island historian Gerald Elfendahl has been actively campaigning for a more active "Cannery Cove Park," and appealed the city's determination of non-significance for the project. Hearing Examiner Margaret Klockars will make a decision on the appeal of the city's SEPA determination by Aug. 7.

Elfendahl said he was pleased to hear a new dialogue was starting.

"We've had a lot of discussion about Cannery Cove, and we're glad to hear that we'll have a discussion with you," Elfendahl said.

Several islanders joined Elfendahl in calling for greater waterfront access and historic preservation.

"There's something magic that happens when water gets involved," Ed Kushner said. "I think we need to keep it so we can all use it easily and freely."

But a number of citizens were on hand to counter the life-jacket crowd.

Several said they supported the city's plans to restore habitat for salmon and other marine fauna and flora.

Ian Bentryn recalled that Strawberry Plant Park had come to the city as part of a land swap with a developer for John Nelson park.

The current Strawberry Plant site is beautiful, Bentryn said, "except for the fact that it's a mess of concrete dumped into Puget Sound."

But he said the city's plans could unlock its potential.

"I think that John Nelson could be proud of the park that will be created both for people and wildlife," Bentryn said.

Rod Stevens called for a renewed public process and said the rift the project had created was noteworthy.

"It's alarming to me that on an island that values historic preservation and environmental preservation, we have a project that pits the two groups against each other," he said.

A date for the informational meeting has yet to be set, but Dombroski said he hopes to schedule it in the next two weeks.

Community Events, April 2014

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