Island road ends in need of volunteer stewards

Bainbridge Island has over 70 public road ends, yet only a few allow residents to enjoy the view or walk to the water’s edge.

“This is an island but we have little access to the water to enjoy the peace, the birds and a quiet walk,” said city Road End Advisory Committee member Marci Burkel.

Most road ends are blocked by ever-thickening brush and blackberry brambles. Some have old stairwells that are crumbling into the beaches below. Others simply have no sign letting people know their neighborhood boasts a public access to Puget Sound.

But if a few islanders roll up their sleeves, Burkel said, road ends can again do what they were intended: link islanders to the water that surrounds them.

The committee has created a new stewardship program aimed at pairing residents with neighborhood road ends. The volunteer program is recruiting people to make regular stops at designated road ends to monitor the condition of the site, noting man-made alterations and natural alterations, such as dumped trash or eroded banks.

Stewards file two site reports a year to the committee.

Road end watchers are also encouraged to put a little sweat into the job to fight back brush or even blaze new trails.

“The stewards can just look and see if something untoward has happened, or, if it’s appropriate, take care of some blackberries,” said committee chair Bitsy Ostenson.

Only 21 road ends are clearly marked and considered easily accessible. The rest, Ostenson said, are “more challenging to access” because of barriers or are visible only on old county platting maps.

The road ends were given pubic access designation back when water travel was the chief mode of transportation for islanders. Most road ends fell into disuse after the Agate Pass Bridge was built and as more residents relied on automobiles.

The early 1990s saw a renewed interest in road ends for recreational use.

With shrinking financial support from the city, Burkel said the road end program has had to increasingly rely volunteers.

Nine residents have volunteered to take part in the stewardship program after it was introduced in the fall. The committee hopes to attract many more to tend the remaining 64.

“We’ve gotten a fair response, but we’ve got quite a ways to go,” Burkel said.

To volunteer as a road end steward, call Nanci Burkel at 780-0601. The city Road End Advisory Committee will meet on Monday, 7 p.m., at the Bainbridge Commons, 402 Brien Drive.

PHOTO: City Road End Advisory Committee members Bitsy Ostenson (left) and Marci Burkel survey a map of island water access points while visiting Winslow Way’s west road end. By Tristan Baurick