BI parks OKs Fort Ward playground

The Bainbridge Island Metro Parks & Recreation District decided Dec. 1 to place a playground in the northwest corner of the Fort Ward Parade Grounds, despite a last-minute plea by the state Trust for Historic Preservation.

In prior comments, people in the community seemed to see the need for the playground, but were divided by the location. Many thought it was the wisest choice, the safest for children. They said many already play in that area. Other sites being considered were farther away from where the children who would use it live.

Opponents felt the history of the area was not respected.

In a letter to parks executive director Terry Lande, Chris Moore, executive director of the preservation, asked parks not to put a playground at the Parade Grounds.

“The Washington Trust is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the places that matter in Washington state,” his letter says.

He says while he appreciates the need for a playground for the community, the Parade Grounds does not have to be the site, as there are other more-fitting sites nearby.

The letter states: Fort Ward first secured listing as a National Register Historic District in 1976 for its historic role as part of the harbor defense system of Puget Sound. In 1996, the Historic District was expanded to include additional structures significantly associated with the Navy’s presence at the site during World War II and the Korean Conflict.

A property transfer in 2011 placed elements of Fort Ward, including the Parade Ground, squarely under the park district’s jurisdiction, noting in Section 2.1 of the agreement that, “The properties shall be used exclusively for passive park and/or open space purposes…” Section 2.2 further defines this use, specifying “…a portion of the Fort Ward Parade Grounds may be developed as a children’s playground, consistent with historical use.”

But the parks plan is not consistent with historical use, he says, adding it would have an adverse impact on the overall integrity of the historic district. He says places like Fort Warden have facilities consistent with historical use.

“A playground, properly sited, can also fit within this historic context. But it must be done thoughtfully,” he writes.