officially worn out their welcome on the Manette Bridge’s
If you travel it often like I do, you’ve probably noticed
an accumulation of gull doo-doo along the bridge’s grey
concrete and green rails. From above, the birds perch on top of the
lampposts and, well, do their business from there.
But their reign of raining poop on the bridge is coming to an
In early May, Bremerton Public Works crews will attach “bird
deterrent” on the lampposts. This likely means those spike strips
you see on other possible bird perches, including at the Bremerton
stopping at the pipe organ. Our Lady Star of the Sea
Church, located at Sixth Street and Veneta Avenue, has big plans
for the neighborhood it has inhabited since the 1950s.
“We want it to be a campus, and have a campus feel,” said
Father Derek Lappe, the church’s leader.
The first step toward that campus is coming up. City staff has
OK’d a plan to close down Veneta Avenue between Sixth and
Fifth streets. The church would like to use a stub of the street as
a pickup and drop-off for the students that go to school there (see
map above). Of the rest, it wants to make it “one, big flat
piazza,” Lappe said.
The church has longterm plans to create a chapel where their
school’s gymnasium is now. Lappe said it plans to build a new gym
on property the church owns further west. In total, the church owns
almost three blocks along Sixth Street, Lappe pointed out.
A street closure could also be considered further south on
Veneta. Earlier this year, I wrote a story about those
two magnificent Sequoia trees that are also on Veneta. That
portion of the road won’t survive forever under those trees and
Lappe would also like to see stretch where the church is, between
Fourth and Fifth streets, closed permanently as well. That would
make a two-block long pedestrian-only corridor.
“We think that would be a natural fit,” Lappe said.
The church has notified surrounding blocks of the closure, Lappe
said, but the Bremerton City Council wants a public process to
accompany it before any closure occurs, including a public
UPDATE: The city will host a public
meeting at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at the gym of Our Lady Star of the Sea
Catholic School, 1516 Fifth Street. For more information, call
UPDATE, Dec. 11: City
officials announced Friday that Washington Avenue will reopen to
traffic on mid-day, Monday, Dec. 14. Some work continues that could
result in intermittent closures but the roadway, including the
intersections at Fifth and Sixth streets will finally be
At long last, paving’s been completed on
Washington Avenue and drivers will see some relief on their
afternoon commutes home.
The city has chosen to keep the southbound lane of
Washington closed until mid-December, in order to get a few more
tasks completed and so it does not further confuse drivers,
according to Bremerton Public Works Director Chal Martin.
“Since folks are used to the one-lane northbound
configuration and the intersection closure, we think it is best
overall to get the work done right with fewer disruptions,” Martin
“Since we only have one lane to work with each way
now, it really makes it much more difficult to get the big trucks
in, and have the room they need to work safely,” Martin said.
The $3.5 million project has narrowed the roadway from four
lanes to two, which made room for wider sidewalks and bike lanes.
The project is also completing a new sewer line that will allow the
city to abandon an environmentally sensitive sewer line on the
Once most of the road work’s done, the crews will be
able to finish off the work at Evergreen-Rotary Park. Now that the
aforementioned sewer beach line will be defunct, there’s no need
for a pump station, roadway and power lines through the middle of
the park. Crews will take those things out and fully connect the
original park with the new 9/11 Memorial via grass and
Here’s the city’s timeline — not quite the October
completion they’d expected.
Paving complete – Thursday, October 15th
Street lights installed and operational – October
Landscaping on Washington – October 30th
Park construction – October 30th to December
Underground (electrical) conversion complete and
street fully reopened – December 18th
“The year of torn up street corners.” That’s
how Bremerton’s public works department summed up 2016 in Bremerton
at a recent city meeting. And no place will have more torn up
street corners than Warren Avenue.
The reason is that the state is gearing up in 2017 to pave
Warren Avenue, Wheaton Way, and all of the Highway 303 corridor out
to Fairground Road. By doing so, many of the street corners along
the way will need to reconstructed to meet current standards for
accessibility. That means new curbs, concrete, countdown clocks for
pedestrians and other traffic improvements will be installed in
2016. The state will pickup the tab for 34 of 55 curb ramps; the
city will pay half of the cost of the rest, which will be about
But city officials, including Mayor Patty Lent, have talked
expanding the narrow pedestrian access on the Warren Avenue
Bridge. The state, in a $1.2 million project a few years ago,
had improved safety crossing the bridge on foot (and on wheels) by
making the railings higher. But if you’ve walked it lately, you
know it’s a tight fit whenever you encounter anyone on the
crossing. Lent and other think it should be fixed, and what better
time to do it then while much other construction work is ongoing,
Chal Martin, Bremerton’s public works director, unveiled an
artist’s rendering (see above) and a plan for remaking the bridge,
at last Tuesday’s city public works meeting. It calls for narrowing
the driving lanes (no, no lanes won’t be taken out,
unlike the project on Washington Avenue) to make more room for
pedestrians. The route is part of the city’s
bridge to bridge urban trail, and the city expects it to grow
in popularity. But because some of the supporting structure of the
bridge has to be reinforced, it comes at quite a cost: about $5
Meanwhile, Mayor Lent, who last week attended the annual meeting
of the American Public
Transportation Association in San Francisco, is developing
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) up the Warren Avenue Cooridor, and
wants ensure any longterm planning has BRT incorporated on the
Warren Avenue Bridge. That usually means dedicated lanes on the
road for buses, to go with fast and frequent service.
But a bridge that was built almost exclusively for cars may not
have much room for much other stuff. I’ve heard from residents
concerned about the idea that ‘skinnying’ up the road could lead to
more accidents; I’ve also heard from others that say making the
lanes smaller will actually slow or “calm” traffic on a roadway
that motorists drive like a freeway and one that has too many
What will the bridge, and the roadways beyond it, look like in a
few years? The future holds many variables. What would you like it
to look like?
Today marks my 10 year anniversary at the
Kitsap Sun. It’s a milestone that I’ve been thinking
about a lot lately. I’ve witnessed a dramatic transformation
in journalism this past decade. Not all has been positive: the
newsroom staff is half the size it was when I got here, reflecting
an era of massive media consolidation. (That’s
the nice way to put it). But I am also part of a new
era, where the most creative and industrious minds will prevail in
an age where anyone can publish a story.
I wanted to take you back through this decade, for a
trip through the stories that fascinated me most. Many of
these, you will notice, are from my first seven years on the job,
when I was the Sun’s crime and justice reporter. But Bremerton, as
home to the Sun and those I’ve covered, has always played an
1. After 62 years, death comes six hours
Amazing stories that are told on the obituary page
nearly everyday. So I was especially curious when my editor, Kim
Rubenstein, came to me with a rather unique one: A couple whose
obituary ran together, in the same article.
I phoned the family, wondering if they would be
interested in telling their parents’ story. It’s a phone call that
never gets easier, having to call someone coming to terms with
death, but it’s a call I feel is a newspaper’s obligation. In doing
so, I’ve always tried to explain I’d like to give the community a
chance to know the person they were in life, and if not, they were
free to hang up on me. Everyone grieves differently but some people
view the opportunity as cathartic.
In this case, the family was thrilled and invited me
to their home in Kingston.
I learned of a
very special love story — a couple through 62 years of marriage
did everything together. Everything. Even getting the mail.
It’s a story that not only touched me emotionally, but
apparently others as well. Few stories I’ve ever done attracted
broader attention. I got calls, emails and letters from all over
the country, and was even interviewed by the Seattle P-I about
2. The CIA is doing what in Washington
Undercover police officers have their identities
concealed for a reason: they are often conducting sensitive, and
sometimes high risk, investigations that warrant it.
But what about when police chiefs, who use their
government issued vehicles mainly for the purpose of driving to and
from work, start using those undercover license plates?
But nothing could prepare me, months after the
initial story, for a call from Austin Jenkins, NPR reporter in
Olympia, who’d been hearing testimony in the State Legislature
about these license plates and changes to the program.
Later, the DOL would backpedal and say that they had
no authority to release information about those “federal agencies”
that have the licenses. But it was a fascinating discovery, an
amazing story to work on and I am glad
we were able to help bring the program to transparency.
3. The Pentagon’s calling, and they’re not
Ever wonder what it’s like to have The Pentagon angry
with a story you did? Well, let me tell you.
Through a public records request, I got hold of a
Navy document that reported he’d received an honorable
discharge from the Navy — something a former Navy JAG told me was
unheard of following a sex crime conviction.
We ran the story.
The following Monday, The Pentagon called.
“Your story is wrong,” I was told repeatedly. “Are
you going to correct it?”
“How is it wrong?” I asked.
I couldn’t get an answer because those records were
private, I was told.
“So how can I correct it?” I wondered.
Round and round we went, for what felt like an
eternity. Newsroom meetings were held. I freely admit it does not
feel good when the Pentagon is not happy with you.
Eventually, others at The Pentagon and the local base
released information that showed the man had received an “other
than honorable” discharge. To this day, I am uncertain why I
saw reports that contradicted each other.
4. Burglary victim becomes the
Imagine coming home from a trip to find your home has
been burglarized, and yet
you’re the one getting hauled off to jail. That was the
situation Luke Groves faced in 2009. A felon, he’d broken into a
school in Shelton at 18, and now, at 37, police found his wife’s
guns in their Hewitt Avenue home.
Prosecutors, who charged him with felon in possession
of a firearm, had offered him no jail time in exchange for his
guilty plea. But Groves took the case to trial,
was convicted, and could’ve faced years in prison over it.
The case was one that former Kitsap County Prosecutor
Russ Hauge and I had butted heads about. He felt we’d cast the
prosecutor’s office as the bad guy in a case which they could not
just “look the other way” on a weapons charge.
I followed the trial from start to finish, including
Hauge himself handling the sentencing — something I can’t
recall on an other occasion in my seven years covering the court
system here. Hauge told the judge that Groves should ultimately get
credit for time served for the crime, and Groves was released.
The story started with a scanner call for a DOA (dead
on arrival) near the road in Olhava. I inquired with the police
sergeant, who told me that the death was actually a pretty
interesting story — certainly not something I expected to hear. I
headed north, parked, and followed a little trail into the woods
where I found “The Shiloh,” Christensen’s home among Western Red
It was a “meticulously organized world,” I wrote. “A
campsite with finely raked dirt, a sturdy green shed and a tent
filled with bins of scrupulously folded clean laundry and cases of
Steel Reserve beer.”
In the subsequent days, I learned all about his quiet
penned this story. Most satisfying to me was that Christensen’s
family had lost touch with him. Without the story, which thanks to
the Internet made its way across the country, his family would’ve
never found him. He got the dignified burial he deserved.
6. Heroin’s ugly grip on Kitsap, the
I’ve probably put more energy into covering the
opiate epidemic than any other single topic in my decade at the
I’ve received a lot of “jail mail” over the years,
and while there’s usually an interesting story, it is, shall we
say, not always one I would pursue in print.
When the letters started coming from Robert “Doug”
Pierce in 2010, I was skeptical. He was convinced that Kitsap
County had miscalculated his “good time” or time off for good
behavior, and that he was serving too long a sentence from his
current cell, at Coyote Ridge in Connell.
Now I will tell you I am a journalist and not a
mathematician. But the basic gist was that jail officials here were
calculating his good time by simply dividing his time served by
three, rather than tacking on an additional to his overall
sentence. The result was he would serve 35 extra days.
A criminal past can often haunts someone for the rest
of his or her life. That was certainly true for Ed Gonda, a man who
moved his family to Bainbridge Island and had heard it was a “laid
back, forgiving kind of place.”
His crime was a sexual relationship with a
15-year-old girl. He admitted to it, did time for it, paid more
than $10,000 in treatment for it — and had lived a clean life for
15 years, to include starting his own family.
But under Washington state law, he had to register as
a sex offender, though he was not a pedophile. And somehow, after
making friends at a local church and at his daughter’s school, word
“The news traveled fast, and people who they thought
they knew well acted swiftly,”
I wrote. “His daughter could no longer play with friends down
the street, he said. The church pews around them were vacant on
Sundays. They more or less stopped going out anywhere on the
“We’re treated like we’re diseased,” his wife told
It was the start of a
three part series I knew would be controversial, but I felt was
important. We want to protect all people in society, especially
children. But is there ever a point when we’ve gone too far and it
has infringed on the rights of those who have already done their
Let’s face it: Bremerton has a gotten a bad rap over
the years, following the demise in the 1980s of its retail downtown
core. An increasing violent crime rate followed, and in many ways
the reputation was earned.
When I was hired in 2005, the city had the highest
per capita violent crime rate. During my interview, which was just
weeks after two murders blocks from the Kitsap Sun’s office, I was
asked how I would take on the story. Aggressively, I said.
If you live in Bremerton, you know that each time we
do have a tragic, violent episode — even if far outside city limits
— it reinforces the stereotype.
But followers of this blog know better. There are
many positive signs of a community improving: Increasing ferry
traffic. Volunteers embracing parks. Home improvements being made.
We’ll see how long it takes for the rest of the world
10. Walking the story in
Any reporter will tell you that we spend a lot more
time with the story than what ends up in the paper. But what about
those people who want to know more, who
are curious for every last detail?
I was startled on my commute this morning to find
asphalt — yes asphalt — where concrete sidewalks should be on the
$3.5 million Washington Avenue project.
As you can see from the photo above, it basically looks like
there’s another street where
sidewalks should be. So what gives?
City officials said in an email earlier this week that yes,
asphalt will have to do on the eastern Washington Avenue sidewalk,
between Sixth and Fifth streets. The reason is that there’s a
proposed development, once called the “Towers
Project,” that the city believes will simply rip the street
open again when construction on it begins.
The reason for their confidence: the development,
begun by Absher Construction, paid upwards of $200,000 for the
city to bury power lines on Washington between Sixth and Fifth
streets. That suggests the project is not just one for the
community development department shelves but that they’re serious
about getting going.
Still, it looks odd, don’t you think?
Other project updates: On Monday, work will
shift to the western side of Washington Avenue. That means that
northbound traffic on Washington will take up the new lane on the
east side, with the western side closed down. There won’t be any
southbound traffic allowed on Washington, and the intersections at
Fifth and Sixth streets will be closed. Contractor RV Associates estimates it
will take seven to eight weeks to complete the western work.
When completed in mid-October — that’s the hope anyway — the
project will have taken the road from four lanes to two, added
wider sidewalks, bike lanes, landscaping and decorative
The project also includes the linking of the 9/11 Memorial park
with the wider Evergreen-Rotary Park. In mid-September, crews will
demolish the old end of Highland Avenue and a sewer pump house
there. They’ll plant grass, put in new pathways and create a new
viewing platform of the Port Washington Narrows. Personally, I am
really looking forward to seeing the new park, the design of which
you can see below.
What’s the future hold for Anderson Cove? The
Bremerton neighborhood is getting a new park soon and some new life
is emerging on nearby 15th Street at Wycoff Avenue.
On Saturday, a group of about
70 of us took a walk to see the changes up close. We heard from
Lowell and Heidi Loxsimer, purveyors of one of Kitsap County’s best
breakfasts and lunches at the Hi-Lo Cafe. Then, we ventured a half
a mile on foot to the Lillian and James Walker Park, which is just
about ready to open. Finally, we walked back to Bualabdh Bos,
Bremerton’s new Irish pub.
Here’s some of the things we learned along the way:
Anderson’s Cove: Just who were the original
residents who gave the cove its name? They are John Peter Anderson
and Ellen Noren, both Swedish immigrants who were some of the first
settlers in what’s now West Bremerton. According to Lois Jacobs’
Childhood Memories of Anderson’s Cove, John Peter arrived at Port
Blakely in 1879 while his future wife would come to Seattle with
his sister in 1888.
John Peter had a homestead of 160 acres in the area where
Bremerton High School is now, selling it when he married Ellen and
buying 40 acres at their now-namesake cove. Sadly, John Peter died
in 1904, leaving Ellen to raise eight children on her own, not to
mention tend for the couple’s cows, chickens and orchard.
The Navy took much of the land for housing to accommodate the
city’s World War II building boom. Some of that housing and
infrastructure exists to this day.
There was a bridge?: A bridge once crossed
Anderson Cove, first to just foot traffic and later another for
vehicle access, according to Jacobs. It’s hard to know where
exactly the crossing was (I couldn’t find more detail) but it’s
likely the cove and surrounding marshlands used to go further
south, necessitating a route across them.
The Hi-Lo Cafe Secret: Heidi and Lowell Yoxsimer
explained that while the food they’ve been cooking up since 2006 is
a big part of their success, part of it is just enjoying
“You have to keep it fun,” Heidi said.
The cafe recently expanded to open a waiting area to give
customers a place to standby until a table opens.
One thing I learned has been talk of a city plan for a
Lulu D. Haddon Park business district and community hub. But
Hi-Lo, it turns out, is simply ahead of its time.
James and Lillian Walker Park: Colette Berna, the
city’s park architect whose works include the revamped Lions,
Kiwanis and Blueberry parks, gave some history on the site. The
city was able to purchase four properties and develop this .62 acre
site with a $1.3 million state Department of Ecology grant. Since
then, they’ve used the money to install just about every technique
stormwater to keep it out of Puget Sound. That includes a sand
filter collection system, pervious sidewalks, a biorention swale
and a Filterra system.
The parks department received $172,000 from the city’s
allocation of federal Community Development Block Grant funds,
creating a small amphitheater, grassy hillside and steps to
the beach below.
It’s slated to open in a month or two.
The park was named by the City Council for Lillian and James
Walker, whose civil rights work during the war and later years made
Bremerton a fairer place for all.
The Irish have arrived: To conclude the walk, we
stopped in to check out the new Irish pub
Bualabdh Bos (“Clap your Hands” in Gaelic). We flooded the
place as it opened at 3 p.m. but Sally Carey and Mark Camp were
happy to oblige. Camp, whose grandmother taught him to make savory
Irish dishes like meat pies, even offered some Irish toasts like
May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re
Thanks to everyone who made this latest Story Walk successful.
See you in September for a walk through the old East High School
campus. Details to come.
If you’ve been on Washington Avenue lately, you know
it’s quite a mess. But the
$3.5 million project hit a major milestone Tuesday when the
first of its new curbs were placed along the northbound portion of
Many engineers have told me of the importance of the placing of
the curbs. It signifies a road project’s transition from below
ground work to surface construction. And, in this particular
project, the curb placement gives us the first look at a sized-down
roadway — and how much wider the sidewalks will be.
The project is adding those wider sidewalks, bike lanes and
street lights to both sides of the road, between the Manette Bridge
and Fifth Street. The roadway will be permanently dropped from two
lanes to one in each direction.
Associates has already added new water, sewer and stormwater
pipes underneath the road. Other utilities have also been placed
underground, including burying the power lines between Fifth and
Now, they’ll finish up the northbound street, pouring new
concrete sidewalks and laying asphalt. There’s a good chance that
work will be completed next week.
Following that, work will transition to the southbound side, or
“upper” lanes. The project is slated for completion in October.