Gale Cool

Feb. 26, 2019

Gale Cool, was a visionary who pioneered “undeveloping” land. He was brilliant, energetic and valued “living in nature not next to nature”. He died in his sleep at the age of 71.

Gale grew up in Seattle, attended Garfield High School, where he later taught English after graduating University of Washington. Gale was naturally ambitious, while in High School he excelled athletically, achieved the honor of Eagle Scout, and purchased his first home using his college savings.

While attending UW, Gale worked as a machinist for Boeing and continued his journey as a real estate entrepreneur in Seattle. Always interested in doing things differently, Gale was uniquely able to identify special places and opportunities.

Constantly exploring, he traveled to all fifty states, across the Americas and Europe. While on a backpacking trip he met his wife, Marja, in Amsterdam, whom he married and adored for the rest of his life. Together they raised three children.

In the early 70’s Gale started building houses on Bainbridge Island a “different way”; smaller, on bigger lots while leaving much of the natural landscape untouched. The “Bridge House”, an AIA-award winning home is a great example of how he integrated buildings into their environment. He developed the high end “Sunday Cove” condominiums with the idea of clustering buildings to leave the rest of the property for people to enjoy.

Gale was an avid salmon angler and loved to “catch a fish for dinner”. As fisheries declined, he declared he’d never build another building. He called himself an “undeveloper” and sought to “carve” the land. He assembled 80 acres of land, dug ponds, raised the water table with a weir, and reintroduced beavers. He created a wetland oasis with trails for the public to enjoy. The land was purchased by Bainbridge Parks and is now Meigs Park.

Gale’s most ambitious project was the creation of the Shel-chelb estuary on the south end of the island. His vision became reality when WSDOT funded the project as wetland mitigation. He worked with many volunteers and professionals and together they created an amazing ecosystem. Salmon came to spawn, birds and birders flocked, and native vegetation returned. Gale loved to track the plant, bird, and fish life of the estuary and enthusiastically educated anyone who passed by.

Gale was very interested in how the Indian population lived on the land. He named the estuary in honor of Suquamish Chief K’cap (Kitsap), the name Schel-chelb was the name of a nearby Indian village and means “bringing-it-home” in the Salish language. He was especially interested in the role Camas played as a food source. He enjoyed to read, tell stories, skin dive, play poker with old friends, cook, tinker, draw, hike and travel with his family. He was a wonderful and involved dad and a doting grandfather.

Gale leaves behind his wife, Marja, their three children, Seth, Sara, Dylan (Becky), and five grandchildren, Isadora, Benicio, Josephine, Ariel and Jasmine.

During the last years of his life Gale felt as if he was in paradise surrounded by his family on their very special property. His spirit is with us and with everyone who enjoys one of his creations.

The day he died, after reading an article about starving Orca whales, Gale penned a letter to the Seattle Times, urging the community to join together to build the second phase of the Shel-chelb estuary.

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