Come walk the new Wheaton Way with me

Little known fact: there’s actually no such thing as “Lower,” or even “Old” Wheaton Way. It’s just a title we Bremerton residents use to distinguish a meandering little thoroughfare from the much larger commercial corridor nearby.

Roots of the road date back to the 1920s. Once lined with popular spots like the Maple Leaf Tavern and the hopping Bay Bowl, it became an oddly wide street with only a few businesses left (the Bay Bowl, I should add, is now home to a Thai restaurant).

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But “Lower” Wheaton Way, as it became when the Warren Avenue Bridge was built, was just reconstructed, adding wide sidewalks, bike lanes, street lamps and a new surface.

At noon on Saturday, I invite you to come out and walk this nearly mile-long stretch of revamped roadway. We’ll tell tales of its history, discuss its transformation and contemplate its future.

We’ll meet at Whitey Domstad Park, the little green space next to the Manette Bridge roundabout and just above the Boat Shed restaurant.

And speaking of local merchants, the Boat Shed and FOUND in Manette have agreed to offer 10 percent off to those who go on the Story Walk, and The Weekender on East 11th will take 15 percent off an item that day following the walk.

This is the fourth story walk of the year. Here’s links to our previous walks:

Washington Avenue, past and present

The meandering Madrona Forest

Redwood Rendezvous in West Bremerton

Fourth Street’s Economic Divide

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New street parking comes to downtown Bremerton

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Don’t be distracted by the mountains. There’s new street parking below them.

 

Next time you’re in a jam to find some parking in downtown Bremerton, consider some new parallel parking spaces near the Manette Bridge. Yes, it will be a bit of a walk to Washington Avenue but there’s plenty of them — around 40 spaces — that have been created with the downsizing of the roadway.

The placement of parking spots on Washington, as it curves around and becomes 11th Street, is an early part of the Washington Avenue project that will reduce the street from four lanes to two in an effort to add bike lanes and wider sidewalks to the area between the Manette Bridge and Fifth Street.

But city officials realized that should the four lanes become two on Washington, the road north of the bridge, as it turns 90 degrees west and becomes 11th street, has no need to be four lanes anymore, either. Plus, there’s some residents impacted by the project that may not even be able to make it to their driveways for awhile.

Chal Martin, the city’s public works director, told me the new spots are permanent, and will last long after the Washington Avenue project is done. In the meantime, signs advertising the spaces to be two hour parking will be put in. Hopefully, though, the parking enforcers will respect those residents who can’t make it to their driveways due to the project.

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New parking.

 

Council’s approval for new printer gets jammed

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The City Council conducted fairly brisk business at its meeting Wednesday. The seven members approved a proposal to allow beer and wine tasting at the farmers market; they created a new parallel parking zone on Washington Avenue and 11th Street; they even took time to congratulate student science fair winners.

You might say the printer discussion, however, got jammed.

The decision to lease a new printer for the city’s parks department, at a cost of $9,200 a year for half a decade, wasn’t actually due for much talk. The Council discussed it the week prior at its study session and had determined it to be appropriate to go in the consent agenda, a bundle of items it votes on all at once.

But during public comment, Robert Parker, a civic activist who lives in Port Orchard, took issue with the printer, saying the parks department would need nowhere near its 150,000-page printing capacity. Parker, who has spearheaded efforts in the city to include the battle against discarded needles and graffiti, knows a little something about printing: he’s run a print shop since 1997.

Councilman Roy Runyon agreed with Parker, saying some cost savings could be found by giving the department “something they need, not something they want.”

“This is way more machine than we need,” Runyon said.

His comments were too longwinded for Councilman Eric Younger, whose “point of order” brought about an up or down vote on whether to kill the discussion since it was a consent agenda item. He was joined by Council members Dino Davis, Leslie Daugs and Mike Sullivan in providing the four votes that would move the Council past the issue.

But Council President Greg Wheeler still allowed for further discussion despite the 4-3 vote. (Wheeler had joined Runyon and Councilman Jerry McDonald in voting to allow discussion to continue.)

Jeff Elevado, recreation manager for the park’s department, defended the leasing of the Ricoh MPC 6502 model copier and printer, saying it was necessary for the volume of brochures and program guides the department puts out each year.

“All our research is telling us that this is the right printer,” he said.

Just about everyone weighed in and ultimately, the Council voted 5-2 to pass the consent agenda, which included leasing the printer (Runyon and McDonald dissented).

“It was thoroughly vetted,” Davis said of the issue.

Quite an argument for one printer, albeit a pricey one.

But the discussion did make me wonder about how city government — or really, any organization — approaches such purchases. Elevado told me later that there’s a pool of government entities that bid together on these pieces of technology, helping to bring their costs down.

The city doesn’t just require a copy machine in the parks department — there’s at least one in every department. I wonder if there’d be a financial advantage if they were all leased together through one contract. And for that matter, what other pieces of equipment and technology could be bundled up and purchased or leased together, attaining the benefits of economies of scale?

Perhaps that’s the debate to come.

Filling that Empty Bowl in Bremerton

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Soup’s on! One of the biggest fundraisers of the year in Bremerton comes to Olympic College Saturday. The Empty Bowl, which started in a church in 2009, has grown to the confines of the Bremer Student Center.

All proceeds benefit the Bremerton Foodline.

The concept is simple and has really taken off here. Using the symbol of an empty bowl, two main groups of artists — those skilled in pottery and those of the culinary variety — come together to battle community hunger.

The result: more than 50 gallons of soup are served up starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, made by some of the most talented chefs in Kitsap County, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 470 clay bowls are crafted beforehand, for donors to take home.

Christine Davis, who has chaired the event for five years now, has watched it grow from raising $2,300 her first year to more than $17,000 at a packed Bremerton Eagles hall last year.

“Empty Bowl is such an amazing collaboration of artists, chefs, businesses and community members who come together for one cause,” said Kate Cofer, president of the Bremerton Foodline’s board of directors. “It’s great to see such an outpouring of love and support for people in need in our community.”

Dr. David Mitchell, Olympic College’s president, said the college is “thrilled” to have the growing event on campus for the first time.

“Olympic College is about community and it is rewarding to see local organizations working together to assist fellow Kitsap residents who are in need,” he said.

The Olympic College Clay Club has been involved before. In fact, two artists — Darroll Clark and Charles Martin — have been competing to see who can make the most bowls. I am told they’re nearing 100 each.

“I just feel better about doing art when I’m contributing to the betterment of my community,” Clark said. “Empty Bowls inspires great collaborative effort and aligns well with my love of creating in clay while working with others to help a community.”

Tickets are $30 and available at the door Saturday or by contacting emptybowlbremerton@gmail.com or 360-286-4754. Alternatively you may contact 360-479-6188 for more information or go to Bremertonfoodline.org.

Oh! And lest I forget, here’s the menu for Saturday.

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Bill Clinton to ferry crewman: ‘I’m your president’

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Craig Salt can tell some great stories about working the Bremerton ferry run. For 35 years, Salt (above, middle) worked for Washington State Ferries, taking passengers and cars  back and forth across Puget Sound.

For me, one story stands out: Salt’s encounter with none other than our 42nd president, Bill Clinton.

Salt most frequently worked the Bremerton run and particularly enjoyed the passenger-only ferry the Tyee. He has found memories of all his time in the system, which he retired from a few years ago.

“It wasn’t a job,” Salt said. “It was an adventure.”

Clinton came to Blake Island in November 1993, a fact you should know because it was featured on my President’s Day video. Salt was selected as one of the seamen who would accompany the president, along with other country leaders that make up the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group.

Salt was surprised to find Clinton ventured out to the rear of the boat, taking in the Seattle skyline with great interest. He started asking questions.

Salt is quite the conversationalist and local historian himself, so filling Clinton in about the Yeslers and the Mercers of Seattle’s past was not only an honor, but something easy to do.

But when Salt realized he was going on a bit long and felt he was keeping the leader of the free world from his counterparts, Clinton put him at ease.

“He said, ‘I’m not their president, Craig,'” Salt recalled. “I’m yours.”

So Salt went on.

He still has the White House photo (above), though not much else from the visit. What’s left is mostly in his memory. But it’s a visit he says he’ll never forget.

“He was a nice man,” Salt said.

One note of caution: please don’t determine this post to be political. It’s not. I just wanted to recognize a nice memory from a man who helped drive a ferry back and forth for more than three decades. 

Dispatches: Six developments in Bremerton

1. A new convenience store has opened downtown.

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On Friday, A&L Pacific Island Minimart opened next to Boston’s Pizza & Deli. Owner Lola Maae (pictured) is still getting settled in, and plans on selling cigarettes and beer once the licenses come in.

But the main goal of Maae, who’s from American Samoa, is to have specialty Pacific Islander products she says you can’t find anywhere outside Seattle right now.

Maae’s lived in Bremerton for 12 years and still works for Yak’s Deli on Kitsap Way. She hopes her new 1,100 square-foot store becomes a tradition.

“It’s a little family business,” she said.

2. The garage door is hip downtown.

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Garage doors appear to be all the rage these days. Der Blokken and the Manette Saloon already have them (and there are probably more that are escaping me right now). Seems a good idea as an effort to expand the ambiance past the front door.

South Pacific near the ferry terminal just installed one (above). And Carlos Jara at Toro Lounge says one’s coming there too.

3. An Irish restaurant may just open on 15th Street.

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An Irish restaurant called “Bualadh Bos” (means clap your hands in Gaelic) may open soon on 15th Street. The owners are working their way through the permitting process and developing the place at the same time.

It’s hard to say as yet when they’ll open, though the sign indicates early April. I say we give it some time given all the requirements businesses must meet with permitting and regulations.

4. Starbucks by the ferry is getting a remodel. 

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Not to be outdone by the announcement of new Starbucks’ stores in Silverdale and in Kingston, the Starbucks by the Bremerton ferry terminal will soon get a makeover.

I don’t have many details yet but I will keep you posted.

5. The Manette Trading Company bows out.

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Sad to see Stewart Wilson has closed the Manette Trading Company.

Wilson had told me a few months ago business in the vintage and antique world was a struggle. The location displays prominently on East 11th, so we’ll see if a new tenant lands there soon.

6. Bremerton’s Kitsap Sun headquarters is officially a part of Journal Media Group.

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And finally, on the personal side, the Kitsap Sun formally changed hands as of April 1. We’re no longer owned by E.W. Scripps in Cincinnati and are now a part of a newspaper chain based in Milwaukee.

The good news is we’ll still do what we do best — keep you up to speed on what’s going on in this town, and this region.

Bigfoot (conference) is coming to Bremerton

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Can you spot Bigfoot? Photo by Patrick Cooper. 

Patrick Cooper often tells people he doesn’t believe in Bigfoot. 

“Because I know there’s bigfoot,” Cooper says.

The longtime Bremerton resident, who spends time along the Hood Canal looking for the Sasquatch, is one of a dozen speakers at the Bigfoot Habituation Research Conference, coming to Bremerton’s Baymont Inn & Suites April 24-26.

The focus of this particular symposium is habituation — that is, attempting to successfully develop trust with the enigmatic species some people claim doesn’t exist.

“We want to show the evidence we’ve gathered,” said Cooper, who by day is a job coach at Easter Seals of Washington. “But the conference will also be about how to approach them in a respectful manner.”

Count Cooper as one who, when he was a kid, was questioning of their existence. But around 15 years ago, he started researching. He watched the Patterson Gimlin film, the most famous of Bigfoot movies, countless times.

He became a believer.

Along Hood Canal — he doesn’t want to say exactly where — he believes he likely found a Sasquatch about five years ago, using various techniques. He’s left some apples around and even used a tree-knocking technique that he says something or someone has responded to with similar knocks.

Because the photos he took from recent visits there aren’t exactly clear, he can only call it a “Class B” encounter, meaning the proof is not definitive.

“Unfortunately it’s what we in the Bigfoot Community call a ‘blob-squatch,'” Cooper wrote me in an email. “There’s just not enough detail to convince anyone that it’s a Sasquatch, but considering the events leading up to it coupled with my follow up visits to the site I’m convinced it’s most likely a Sasquatch.”

He hopes that with conferences like the one coming up in Bremerton, awareness and appreciation for the Sasquatch will grow.

“I can’t speak for the group as a whole, but I do believe the Sasquatch are a type of people, most likely a relic hominid, that has managed to survive in remote areas into modern times,” Cooper wrote me in an email. “My hope is that someday they will be protected, not just as an endangered species, but as a type of ancient people deserving of some basic human rights and respect.”

A three-day pass is $65, though you can purchase individual days for cheaper. Click here for more information.

Could it be? Photo by Pat Cooper.
Could it be? Photo by Pat Cooper.

Bremerton’s bizarre borders

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On a map, Bremerton is a Tetris champion’s worst nightmare. Geographically, it’s filled with holes: West Hills, Gorst (for now), Navy Yard City. There’s even an island in Port Orchard.

In sum, it has quite a bizarre set of borders.

Since I took over coverage of the city for the Kitsap Sun in late 2012, I have been perplexed as to how it came to be this way. Each area, of course, has its own story — Rocky Point, anyone? — but here we are, an oddly-shaped blob of a municipality.

As we have seen in this past week, Bremerton is widely known as a much larger area. The postal code includes areas in Seabeck and at the Fairgrounds. Bremerton’s public works department also provides water to a larger swath of land than is the city.

You may have seen Sunday’s story about how Bremerton is actually barred by agreement from annexing the area north of Riddell Road. We’ll see if that changes, following conversations between the city and the county over South Kitsap landowner David Overton’s desire to end the agreement.

This year, I plan to write a series of articles focusing on some of those holes. Many of them are UGAs — short for Urban Growth Areas, destined to come into the city under the state’s Growth Management Act. What’s kept them from coming in?

And for that matter, how different are services between those offered in Bremerton to those in the unincorporated county?

I offer one example regarding emergency services. There are already mutual aid agreements that ensure fire trucks and police cars are on their way, regardless of jurisdiction (South Kitsap Fire & Rescue, interestingly, is still the official fire department for Rocky Point). But when it comes to policing, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office is spread thin around the county, whereas Bremerton’s force is concentrated. The result more frequent patrols on city streets, and the ability of Bremerton police to respond much more quickly to emergencies.

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Taxes and regulations are also different. Bremerton has a B&O tax that some cite as a deterrent for coming into the city. Of the regulatory climate, here’s one interesting nuance. There’s a storefront for a medical marijuana collective garden tucked into a sliver of county land near the Perry Avenue Mall. The city banned such gardens in 2013. It’s surrounded on three sides by Bremerton.

I think there’s a general assumption that coming into a city means more taxes, more regulation, more services. That doesn’t always turn out to be the case. I talked to a Rocky Point resident who recently told me why he didn’t want to be in the city. He recalled a relative supporting Marine Drive’s annexation into the city.

“Marine Drive got in because they wanted sewer and sidewalks,” he recalled. But they got nothin.'”

I hope to learn a lot this year on this issue, and welcome your knowledge and opinions.

A Manette miracle: Lower Wheaton will soon get paved

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Somebody pinch me. Months overdue, the Lower Wheaton Way project is nearing completion. The $3.4 million overhaul of the road, between Lebo Boulevard and the Manette Bridge, is set for its final push April 11, when crews will do the final paving of the stretch.

It’s been a long time coming. The project, which began in spring 2014, was slated to be completed at the end of 2014. But it will soon be done, assuming the weather cooperates.

 

The city plans to close down the entire stretch the whole day. I repeat: you do not want to try to drive anywhere near Lower Wheaton Way on April 11.

But of course, Mother Nature will play a role.

“The limiting factor in paving this time of year is the weather,” said Eduardo Aban, the city’s engineer in charge of the project. “The surface temperature must be 45 degrees and rising, and the surface must be dry. If the weather is unfavorable, we’ll target the following Saturday until the weather complies with the specification.”

If all goes well, the week before paving — April 6-10 — will be used for prep work. That means asphalt grinding and “prelevel-paving” to get the road ready for the big closure. So expect delays then too.

Already, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the tall, green street lights have been illuminated at night time, as well as many residents taking advantage of the new sidewalks on both sides of the stretch. Remember, this was a highway installed in the 1920s that has never had much in the way of sidewalk access, let alone 10-foot pedestrian walkways that run the length of the East Bremerton portion of the Bridge to Bridge trail.

I’ll keep you posted with construction updates.

 

 

Bremerton councilman: location matters when it comes to homicide

Jerry McDonald.
Jerry McDonald.

Bremerton City Councilman Jerry McDonald didn’t like how most media reported on the killings of a woman and child early Saturday at Kariotis Mobile Home Park.

His issue: they were reported as occurring in Bremerton, when they are outside city limits.

“Poorly reported stories such as this do nothing for our reputation and property values,” said McDonald, who represents the district including downtown and Manette.

Here’s what he posted:

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After posting it to several community sites, the comments began to roll in. Many accused McDonald of being insensitive in a time of tragedy.

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Many of the postings were removed by Monday.

McDonald told me Monday that he in no way meant to downplay the horrific nature of the crime. But he wants media outlets, including the Kitsap Sun, to use different terms when describing areas beyond the city.

“It’s absolutely a tragic event,” he said. “But it’s not in Bremerton.”

This isn’t the first time someone’s raised the issue. It has been discussed at recent City Council meetings in regard to other crimes. McDonald said he wanted to tackle the issue quickly on Saturday in an effort to change the reporting from the get-go. He has talked with officials at several Seattle broadcast stations.

Bremerton’s city borders zigzag all over the place, ending at Riddell Road going north. But Bremerton is often regarded by media as including a much wider swath of territory. And, if you consider the postal codes, Bremerton goes all the way west to Seabeck, and north to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

I did a story last fall that showed how Bremerton’s rate of violent crime has indeed plummeted in the past 10 years. But when measured against that of unincorporated Kitsap County — which includes the area where this crime occurred — Bremerton’s is still higher in rate of violent crime (see below).

But does it even matter? McDonald thinks it does. He believes Bremerton is attempting to shed a reputation as having high crime.

“Those are the things people remember, the tragedies,” he said.

Do you agree?