The only thing that saved Stephenson Canyon from development was the canyon itself. Its steep, fern-lined terrain made it too hard to clear for houses as World War II-era Bremerton boomed.
Today, it’s a hidden gem in the midst of the urban neighborhoods that make up Sheridan Park. And this Saturday, we will do some exploring of this 27-acre oasis on the Kitsap Sun’s latest Story Walk.
In October 1942, the recently-established Bremerton Housing Authority opened the first homes at Sheridan Park, the remnants of which you can still find there today. They put people in them so fast the electricity wasn’t even working when the first tenants moved in, according to an article in the Bremerton Sun. But they could not build within the canyon, even as the population of Bremerton grew from 15,000 to 85,000 during those war years.
The US Public Housing Authority sold the canyon, and the property around it, to Bremerton in 1958, according to Bremerton parks department records. Ruth Reese, a Bremerton historian, told me that a generation of children who grew up around it took advantage of their natural surroundings, playing on its trails and giant stumps.
Later, however, it languished. People started dumping trash there. Children stopped playing and the trails seemed to attract a seedier element. But in 2008, some federal money and community projects to clean up the canyon brought the canyon back into the community fold.
Still, I have talked with some residents who feel the park is not safe, and have observed drug use there. Most disturbingly, a level 3 sex offender is accused of groping and assaulting two women on the trails in July. He remains in the Kitsap County Jail awaiting trial. (It’s story no. 4 on the Bremerton Beat Blast below.)
This Story Walk aims to accomplish two things:
- Learn the history and the layout of this magnificent green space, so you may enjoy it in the future;
- Get tips on how you can stay safe within the canyon, with help from Bremerton Police Sgt. Tim Garrity, who will speak at the walk.
Hope to see you at 1 p.m. Saturday at the city greenhouses off Birch Street. RSVP and view the rest of the details for the walk here.