New span completes missing link for Bainbridge trails

You can finally get there from here.

The missing link in the Blakely Harbor Trail — a 65-foot bridge across the Blakely Harbor jetties — was recently dropped into place and is now open for public use.

The 65-foot bridge, constructed of aluminum and fiberglass, was fabricated in Blaine and barged in from La Conner. A massive crane deftly lowered it into place, and officials said the bridge slipped perfectly into its pre-planned position; no final adjustments were needed.

“It was just amazing,” said Perry Barrett, senior planner for the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District.

“When the bridge went down, there were no adjustments needed; no manipulation of anything had to happen,” said Park Services Superintendent David Harry.

Measurements for the span to fit snuggly in its spot had been made multiple times by Bainbridge parks, the project contractor and work crews.

“We all measured it. We all checked off with each other to make sure what we were seeing was the same,” Harry said.

All, told, installing the bridge took nine hours. The barge also brought over other materials for the installation, including 45 heavy-duty bags, each about 5 feet high, filled with rocks.

Each bag weighed about 3,000 pounds, and crews from the parks district unloaded the rocks — that’s 135,000 pounds — to be used on the trail approaches to the bridge across the jetties.

“The tides, The weather. Everything worked out perfectly,” Harry said.

The weather wasn’t cooperative every day of the installation project, however. But unloading the rocks — “man-sized” boulders — and putting down the crushed rock base for the trail approaches was done in rain and shine.

Though the weather turned “miserable” for a few days, Harry said work continued. On their best day, park workers unloaded 13 of the 3,000-pound bags.

“We were soaked to the bone. We made progress, despite the weather,” Harry said.

Over the boulders, spall was used to fill in the gaps, then a fiber matting was placed, and on top of that, sand.

Eventually, native plants such as pickleweed will return, softening the appearance of the approaches to the bridge.

Planning for the bridge has spanned years.

“We looked at this back in 2015 … to establish this connection, instead of just the viewpoints,” Barrett said.

The bridge fills in the missing gap in the Blakely Harbor Trail, which also connects to the trail south to Fort Ward, and at the north end of Blakely Harbor Park, to the Blakely Cemetery Trail that goes north to Eagledale Park and beyond.

The bridge itself cost $154,000, and was funded by a private individual on Bainbridge who made the donation anonymously.

The donor also paid permitting costs, and Barrett said the project underwent federal, state, and local review. The Coast Guard also examined the bridge proposal, as Blakey Harbor is navigational water for boaters.

“It took a long time,” Barrett said. “It goes back, officially, to 2013.”

When Bainbridge parks bought its first 20 acres at the harbor, the acquisition didn’t include the southern jetty. That purchase came two years later.

“The contemplation of having this connection has always been a staccato effort,” Barrett said.

Two worlds come into view from the middle of the new bridge. Look east across the harbor, and there’s the downtown Seattle skyline in the distance. Look west, and it’s rural; the meadow tucked amid tall fir trees.

“It’s a really unique and nuanced kind of experience, I think,” Barrett said.

“That kind of interaction is just a very, very unique landscape, just in terms of a park to have both of those contexts in one location. It harkens back to Olmsted in my brain,” he added, referring to famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of New York’s Central Park.

The contractor for the project was Carlson Construction. The park district also worked with Jones & Jones Architects and Anchor QEA on earlier project aspects regarding design and federal and state permitting issues.

Harry agreed that the new view was something exceptional. He recalled how the project’s contractor stood on the barge to take photos of the night lights in Seattle as it sat next to the bridge. You can also see fireworks at CenturyLink Field from the spot.

Another group got bragging rights for another unique view from the project.

“We had a bunch of kayakers come out,” Harry said. “They wanted to be first under it.”

Park officials said a public dedication ceremony is being planned to celebrate the completion of the project.

A large crane helps place the new bridge in Blakely Harbor in mid-November. (Photo courtesy of the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park Recreation District)

A large crane helps place the new bridge in Blakely Harbor in mid-November. (Photo courtesy of the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park Recreation District)