Woodworkers craft ‘fancy’ bus shelter for affordable housing project

A group of volunteer woodworkers built a custom bus stop for the Ferncliff Village affordable housing project. Tad Sooter has the story….

Island woodworkers donate new Ferncliff Village bus stop
By Tad Sooter

It’s not often a school bus shelter can elicit awe. The new wooden shelter at the Ferncliff Village affordable housing development isn’t an average bus stop.

“It’s pretty spectacular,” Bill Luria of the Bainbridge Housing Resources Board said of the stout but elegant fir shelter. “It’s a pretty massive structure.”

Luria is just as impressed with the shelter’s builders.

Members of the non-profit Bainbridge Community Woodshop and employees of Salisbury Woodworking contributed about 200 hours to the project on Ferncliff Avenue, which wrapped up in late November.
 The Ferncliff shelter was the latest community service effort completed by Community Woodshop volunteers, who regularly donate their time and expertise to assist fellow non-profits. Kilbane said the service projects meet a need on the island. They also help the Community Woodshop raise its profile while it pursues its overarching goal of creating a shared workshop on Bainbridge.

The group formed in 2008, when founding member Roger Lauen proposed building a community shop where woodworkers could share space, tools and knowledge.

Photos by Tad Sooter

“The woodshop would essentially be a classroom,” Lauen said.

The idea caught on quickly. More than 100 islanders attended the group’s early meetings and the Woodshop now has a list of more than 200 people interested in joining. Many are retirees ― both men and women ― who want to work with wood but don’t have space to tinker in.

As excitement for the effort grew, donations of woodworking tools flowed in. The Community Woodshop filled the basement of the Transmitter Building at Battle Point Park with enough equipment to stock a full shop, Lauen said. But it still needs a building to house them.

Several times in the last three years the group found a likely location only to have its plans cut short by high costs or logistical obstacles.

“We toured every building on the island we could think of,” Lauen said.

Recently the Woodshop was working with the city and Friends of the Farms on a proposal to install a shop at the public Johnson Farm property. The plan seemed solid until a fire marshal advised the group it would need to overhaul the property’s water system to make a shop code compliant, Lauen said. The improvements would have cost more than the building itself, making the plan impractical.

Lauen said the group continues to network and seek funding.

“We’re back to the drawing board now,” he said. “It’s all speculative at this point, but we’re keeping the dream alive.”

The search for a shop space is tedious, but woodworkers aren’t waiting for a building practice their craft together.

A core group of volunteers are teaching a series of classes offered through the Bainbridge Metropolitan Park and Recreation District. They introduce students to a world of routers, lathes and sanders, and offer more advanced classes for intermediate woodworkers. Members also share their expertise by helping island non-profits with carpentry-related endeavors.

“One of the things that’s really blossomed is our community service projects,” Lauen said.

Working with Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, they built wheelchair ramps and improved accessibility at the homes of people with disabilities. They installed cabinets at the Senior Community Center, and built a city information kiosk just down the hill at Waterfront Park.

The Housing Resources Board’s Ferncliff Village project provided new service opportunities for the woodworkers. Volunteer woodworkers assembled 30 wooden birdhouses that were decorated and auctioned at HRB’s November Rise & Shine fundraiser, an event that raised $42,000.

HRB had an even bigger project in mind this fall. The city required the new development to have a sheltered bus stop, Luria said. The Community Woodshop and Salisbury Woodworking stepped up to build it.

“They agreed to do it voluntarily,” Luria said. “It’s amazing.”

Wood wasn’t hard to come by. A stand of Douglas fir was cleared to make way for the homes.

Island Bainbridge-based Coyote Woodshop cut the trees and milled them into lumber. From there, the wood traveled to Salisbury’s shop where cut the wood into pieces that could be assembled onsite with few fasteners needed.

“They did really beautiful work,” Community Woodshop volunteer Jim Roberts said.

With the wood delivered and the basic frame installed, it was up to Community Woodshop members to complete the assembly and smooth out the final structure. All told, Woodshop volunteers contributed about 140 hours of labor over several weeks in November.

It was a worthwhile effort, Kilbane said.

“It’s a pretty fancy bus shelter,” Community Woodshop volunteer Tom Kilbane said. “But it worked out well. All in all, it’s been a good program.”

As volunteers put finishing touches on the shelter, HRB’s contractors were beginning to lay foundations for the first wave of houses in Ferncliff Village. It will still be months before families and children can move into their new homes.

When they do, a one-of-a-kind bus shelter will be waiting for them.

Woodworkers Unite!
For more information on the Bainbridge Island Community Woodshop visit www.bainbridgecommunitywoodshop.org. The Woodshop will hold its annual meeting at 9 a.m., Jan. 14 at the Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center, 370 Brien Drive.