Busting barriers in the Ericksen-Hildebrand debate

The city’s long debated it. Business leaders have long demanded it. The neighborhood has long feared it.

A big blue pickup truck last week rammed through and created it.

The ‘it,’ in this case, is a connection between Ericksen Avenue and Hildebrand Lane, two Winslow roadways that have remained a few yards apart while fostering decades of debate.

The unknown truck driver added his two cents by crashing through traffic cones, sandwich boards, plastic signs and a thick steel chain.

“I heard it roaring through,” said Jeff Day, owner of Hildebrand’s Kitsap Physical Therapy. “Two of my employees saw it happen but he drove away too fast to get a license plate number.”

Catching the driver likely wouldn’t stop others from tearing down barricades in the private parking lot that has served for years as the circuitous and unofficial Ericksen-Hildebrand link.

In the eight weeks after the barriers were put in place, people have cut or knocked them down at least seven times.

Charlie Frame, who owns the parking lot and nearby CFA Properties, said bolt cutters were used to sever the chain three times in recent weeks.

“I wish I’d been there to see it happen,” he said, estimating total damages to barriers at about $500. “If I had, I’d have put those bolt cutters where the sun don’t shine.”

Frame supports a link between Ericksen and Hildebrand, but not through his parking lot. He and other business leaders point to a small park that sits at the spot where both streets end. Punching through would create a direct link for motorists traveling between downtown and the Island Village shopping center.

But businesses and residents on Ericksen say the connection would clog their street with traffic and rob them of one of the few green spaces left downtown.

“Winslow is getting 50 percent of the growth but it has only 2 percent of the open space,” said Debbi Lester, a member of the Ericksen Neighbors group. “Considering paving one of our few green spaces is ludicrous.”

But allowing traffic to continue to flow through his parking lot is “just flat dangerous,” said Frame, who estimates several hundred vehicles cut through the narrow lot each day.

“We had to think about safety and about all the liability, especially with everybody sue happy these days,” he said.

Day, who has counted 100 cars pass by in 10 minutes, said his patients are particularly at risk.
“I have everybody from a 15-year-old on crutches to an 80-year-old who’s had a hip replacement trying to cross that parking lot,” he said. “(Drivers) are honking at them and passing them at 30 miles per hour.”

A 2006 city traffic study recommended an Ericksen-Hildebrand connection after almost 200 vehicles passed through the parking lot during two-hours one afternoon.

Although criticized for its limited scope, the study’s findings added to a chorus of connection supporters, including the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce, the fire department and the city public works department.

The fact that motorists are willing to commit crimes and damage property for transportation convenience may bolster the pro-connection argument.

“That seems to indicate people want a connection in place,” said John Waldo, the chamber’s government relations coordinator.

Lester disagrees.

“Open the road because vandalism is going on?” she said. “I don’t think so. I wouldn’t build a neighborhood based on people plowing through and wrecking havoc.”

While making a connection by force is new, the debate over the connection isn’t, and some public officials appear to be tiring of it.

The City Council opted to not make a decision on the issue earlier this year. Public Works has proposed an over $1 million project to connect the streets by 2012, but few believe the plan will gain much traction, especially as the city struggles with budget shortfalls.

“The council said they’re not touching it,” Waldo said. “It is such a hot-button issue.”

But the city’s got to press it eventually, said Day. The city’s inertia, he said, has thrust the problem on to his and other businesses.

“People want a connection,” he said. “It’s the city that has to deal with this issue, but they’re not doing it.”

12 thoughts on “Busting barriers in the Ericksen-Hildebrand debate

  1. My husband and I live on Blue Heron Ave. NE. We are neighbors of Eriksen Park and enjoy the green space and the wildlife that we see there. There are a number of reasons NOT to put a road through this park and make the connection that some people seek.
    1 – the park is a green space and favors wildlife, walkers and bikers and adds a little beauty to the area. We do not need more roads and speeding traffic.
    2 -The city does not need to spend tax payers’ money to build a road here. There are many more important things to spend this money on. I won’t name them all but Winslow comes to mind and also the Senior Center.
    3-The same people who break through the chains put up by the owners of the bank property will try to speed down Eriksen to beat the ferry line-up on 305.
    4 – Might the ferry system and the state decide that Eriksen is the perfect place to line up ferry traffic and get it off of 305?
    5 – People should be encouraged to walk and bike and adding more roads and throughways just means more car traffic
    6 – There are already 2 roads going up the hill to High School Road. 305 and Madison are both readily available for cars to get to the addresses and shopping centers on High School.
    7 – Why should a couple of business owners who knew that was a park from the get go, now get to have it torn down at tax payers expense so people won’t go through their parking lots.
    8 – There are a lot of people who enjoy this park and spend time at the picnic tables and watching the birds and deer – my husband and I do and so do other neighbors.
    9 – If the banks want to close down their parking lots they should put up a permanent brick wall or metal fence with a gate in it for pedestrians to go through. There is no emergency so great that the time spent on Madison and Wallace will put a big dent in the Fire/police’s response time. AND, if you build this road, people will speed through that section and the people who speed down Wallace now, failing to stop at the intersection, will slam into them
    causing many more accidents and the need for the police and the Fire Dept.
    There are probably a lot more reasons not to put in this connection but the biggest reason it that it is stupid, stupid, stupid and it will not make anything better, only worse. I hope the city council has more sense than to use our taxes on this idiotic project.

    Victoria Reilly

  2. I lived 4 miles up the Island on very private acreage when I helped campaign to keep Ericksen closed and the City Council voted to do so. So much for Mr./Mrs. Hunter’s NIMBY. Now I live in the neighboorhood to try to be part of the solution to growth and traffic, and community.

    Charlie Frame’s excuse for not allowing traffic to flow over the same route he has opened and closed for years to try to frustrate people is way off base. He talks about liability. All of the parking at the high school road end of the shopping mall is no different than the route he opens and closes. All he has to do is change some perpendicular parking to diagonal and make one-way East/West lanes on already existing traffic lanes. The one next to the bank is as wide as Winslow Way and would never have the same amount of traffic.

    It’s a new world now, and building roads to everywhere is a great way to waste $$$$. Winslow is a village, a neighborhood, and will eventually have half the people of the Island living here and paying half the taxes, and doing half the voting. Think about that.

  3. Well Mr. Fisher et al.., it sounds like you don’t think privately-owned property should belong to the owners. Mr. Frame can do whatever he chooses to do with his property, as can the Joshua Green Corp. or any other private owner. Just because you, Debbie Lester or Ms. Reilly don’t like it means very little. Why don’t YOU pony up the costs associated with constructing a “University Village” parking circuit? Our financially-jaundiced city certainly cannot pay for that. I don’t blame Mr. Frame a bit for trying to minimize the litigious result of someone getting injured on his property. I could do without the wafting odor of what comes out a dog’s rear-end and the evening drunks that comes from “the park”.

  4. Mr. Hunter, all of the property in the entire shopping mall in question is private property. The retailers and services that are there want us to come onto their private property, so that they can make a profit from the sale of goods and services to us. The other entry ways off of High School Road are private property. The private property owners built them so that we could get to their stores and services.

    So, I do believe that privately owned property belongs to the owners, and if Mr. Frame wants to improve the entry off of Wallace, that he has opened and closed through the years, he can do so with his own private $$$, and far less than the total costs to the City, both for the short and long term.

    This is a quick and easy solution, a good compromise for the neighborhood, and saves the taxpayers millions of $$$.

  5. It is fascinating how on the north end of the shopping district when someone enters at one of the three entrances, passes by a businesses, those businesses past by there do not cry “trespass.”

    Does Safeway think you are “tresprassing” when someone drives by their building crosses over 2 speed bumps, takes a left and goes to Rite Aid?

    Interesting enough, three of the properties in the village shopping district are owned by Joshua Greene: Safeway complex, Viking Video, and Frontier Bank. Why would that property owner not want clients to be able to freely move between those businesses? Why would they consider it trespassing?

    How is this different from the southern entrance – enter, drive over a couple of speed bumps and pass businesses along the way?

    It is also fascinating to read the tactics of the arguments for paving a road through a park.

    1. Fear – teenagers on cruches and 80 year olds are going to be plowed over at 30 miles an hour.
    2. Illegal – trespassing through private property.
    3. Liable – threat of lawsuits
    4. Degrade the place – smell of “dogs rear-end”, vagrants, drunks.

    I don’t know the park you experience but it is not the Ericksen Park I enjoy.

    Take a moment to look at the people I meet in Ericksen Park: http://www.ericksenpark.myphotoalbum.com

    Hildebrand Lane is a private access driveway. Ericksen Avenue is a public Road. Connecting the two would trigger the City having to take over, read “buy” Hildebrand Lane and upgrade it to City road standards – spend more taxpayer money. And maintain then have to maintain the road (restrip, add cross walks, sidewalks, stop signs). Then low and behold you have new traffic problems that you will have to spend money to resolve – Hildebrand/High School and Ericksen/Madison. I recommend not opening this financial-never-ending-spending-Pandora’s box.

    Hunter, I’d be glad to meet with you anytime to walk and talk about Ericksen Park and your ideas for improving the shopping district, access, and the neighborhoods. Just name a time and I’ll meet you at the park. Thank you for reading my comments and I look forward to meeting you. Likewise the invitation is open to anyone. And also look to signs about upcoming picnics in the park and come and join us.

  6. It is unfortunate that Mr. Baurick has discarded the role of an unbiased reporter and chosen to use the power of the press to promote the cause of those who wish to destroy greenspace and neighborhood values in Winslow. Mr. Baurick’s writing gives ample voice to the property owners and the Chamber’s hired gun, and leaves Ms. Lester hanging as the sole, we are to infer, radical obstructionist to the will of the majority. (Kudos to Ms. Lester for standing by her principals – even when such biased reporting guarantees that she becomes the target of mean-spirited attacks.)

    Actually, Ms. Lester is not alone. The revitalization of Ericksen Park including the pruning of trees and the addition of welcomed amenities, has been accomplished through the efforts of many volunteers form both the immediate neighborhood and the far-flung corners of the island. (Myself from Crystal Springs, for the record.)

    The Ericksen Neighbors group also collected many pages of signatures from fellow islanders endorsing the value of the park, (including some employees of the business owners quoted above), before the petition was stolen by civic-minded activists of “Mr. Blue Truck’s” ilk.

    The ground truth remains, that Ericksen Park is a tiny piece of mitigation that both the Ericksen neighborhood and the island as a whole have in exchange for the ravages of a brutally destructive developer. Unfortunately, many islanders have not been here long enough to remember the acres of forest and wetlands entombed beneath the Village’s asphalt – a fact that these business owners willingly exploit when they argue that paving our park would be no great loss.

    Also ignored are the internal covenants on those business properties which make clear that vehicle access from Wallace Way is expected to be managed on and through those same properties. This comes down to nothing more than an effort by private landowners, unwilling to spend the dollars to solve their own problem, shrewdly exploiting island drivers’ frustration in an attempt to foist the bill onto the public at large.

    Sadly, Mr. Baurick’s reporting has helped them take a step further towards their goal of destroying neighborhoods and public parks – while conning the public into paying for the privilege.

  7. I was deeply alarmed when I read that Charlie Frame declared he wished he had the opportunity to do something hideously physically violent to another human being, all the while claiming that traffic through the parking lot was “just flat dangerous” and that he “had to think about safety”.

    Following Debbi Lester’s example I would hope that Mr. Frame would consider meeting with those who oppose him and discovering common ground from which to build a peaceful future.

  8. I live on the south end of the island, and as a person who occasionally used the parking lot as a throughway when visiting my vet nearby, I can tell you that I do not miss this access one bit now that it has been blocked off. How people can think that the city should now pave over a park for this now-denied convenience at a significant loss to a neighborhood is beyond me. I am certainly willing to go out of my way a few blocks and spend a little extra time to save a neighborhood their trees and open space.

    I do not want my tax dollars spent in such a manner. Let’s plant flowers and fix roads and help people, not spend more money on unnecessary, life-killing pavement. When the unfortunate Safeway complex was built, the city made a promise to preserve the surrounding neighborhoods. The city should keep that promise; there is no reason not to.

  9. “…unfortunate Safeway complex…” Are you serious? If so, it looks like we have well over a couple thousand “unfortunate” people in that “complex” every day! Somehow the cold war days of soviet food lines do not come to mind when I think of Safeway, the ferry system, and the other local businesses. Without which, by the way, this city would dry up and wither away. Then there would be plenty of places to plant government flowers.

  10. Hunter,

    You have not taken me up on my invitation to walk around the shopping district, look at the entrance/exit, stroll through the park, and discuss the potential improvements.

    The invitation still stands.

    Kindest regards,
    Debbi Lester

  11. Debbi Lester asked, “Why would that property owner not want clients to be able to freely move between those businesses?”

    There is not an answer to your question because the property owners do want free movement between those businesses. In fact, they want MORE movement than the parking lot allows. What’s their solution? Acting in a heavy-handed manner by closing off the parking lot in an effort to force an Erickson-Hildebrand connection. Compare the rental value of a retail space fronting a road with great access to one that is located at the end of a private road with poor access.

    $ out of the citizens pocket, $ into the private property owners pockets.

    Not very different from what the Winslow Way property owners are trying to do with the Streetscape and Winslow Tomorrow.

    This isn’t a safety issue. It’s not dangerous.

    I drive through there all the time. I am a regular customer of 3 businesses located in the parking lot and along Hildebrand. I visit them at the same time so I drive through. Do the property owners consider me a trespasser?

    If I were a business owner operating in any of these buildings, I would not want my landlord referring to my customers (those people that would pay me so I that I could pay the rent) as trespassers.

    Charlie Frame can do what he wants. It’s his property. But let’s be open and honest about what is really going on here and everyone’s true motivation.

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