Category Archives: environment

The Bremerton park meadow you’ve never heard of

It’s not a park. It’s a “right of way.”


If you’re looking for a secret green space to find solitude in Bremerton, look no further than just northwest of the Warren Avenue Bridge. Amid our urban jungle is a grove of mostly pine trees along with around 2.5 acres of fairway-like grassland.

Funny thing: it’s not even a park.

I discovered this little gem while covering the city’s annual Arbor Day festivities. A California redwood was added to the mix of conifers there as Bremerton celebrated its 19th year of being a “Tree City USA.”

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But in the end, I wondered: What was the name of this little area?

My question to the city leaders in attendance was met with shrugs.

“It’s a right-of-way,” said Jim Orton, operations manager for the city’s public works department.

The nameless, teardrop-shaped land is indeed a right-of-way for Highway 303, which runs adjacent to it, along with Callahan Drive and Juniper Street, which connect to the highway (see picture). Orton told me that up until a decade ago when an Eagle Scout project cleared the land and planted some trees, it was basically a big patch of scotch broom.

In the time since, it had become overgrown. But city crews recently cleared it again, revealing a nice meadow that just begs for a frisbee to be thrown on its grass, or perhaps a picnic blanket.

The only interruption you’ll likely have relaxing in this little green space is the humming of cars passing by on Highway 303.

If you do head out there, take some pictures and send them my way for a followup post. Oh, and don’t forget to check out nearby Stephenson Canyon, a gorgeous fern-lined trail just to the west.

And while we’re at it, anyone have a name for this little space?

Mayor Patty Lent takes a picture of many of the city’s tree committee members Friday at the annual Arbor Day ceremony.



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.


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.

For his final years, a roof over Billy’s head in Bremerton

Billy Langham
Billy Langham

When William Langham finally got a roof over his head, it took time for him to adjust to it.

Having lived in the woods of Illahee Preserve for 10 years, the tall ceilings were simply too high for Langham, who propped his tent inside his South Court Apartment, a kind of reverse claustrophobia.

“He had been hiding away in a tent in the woods for such a long time, he wasn’t sure about taking the first step,” said MaryAnn Smith, a social worker with Taking it to the Streets Ministry.

But adjust he would, and for the final eight years of his life, Langham had greater security and a restored dignity, those who knew him say.

“He kept his apartment in very good condition,” Smith said. “He valued what he had … I was so proud of Billy, when I moved, he stepped up and paid his own bills and kept his cable and power on.”

His life was not perfect. That he was found in his apartment a few weeks after he had died speaks to a certain loneliness, some who knew him say. His penchant for Hurricane beverages fed his alcoholism.

Pancreatic cancer ultimately took the 52-year-old’s life.

But Billy, as he was known, was charming and quite skilled. He was a gentleman who could play guitar and  fix anything, according to neighbors Judith Holden and Corinna Maroney.

“He was a very genuine man,” Maroney said.

“He had so many skills, talents and abilities,” said Beverly Kincaid, a grant writer. “The fact he didn’t have a roof over his head did not define him.”

Kincaid took a chance on Billy. She had met him while doing a project, finding Billy in his tent in the woods of East Bremerton.

Kincaid took it upon herself to arrange Billy’s services, held recently at the Salvation Army he frequented for meals and social nourishment. She got in touch with his family and paid more than $200 to have an obituary placed in the Kitsap Sun.

If Kincaid made sure he had dignity in death, Smith ensured it in his life. After all those years  in the woods, she fought to get him disability benefits that finally put a roof over his head.

It’s easy to think the homeless might just want to live in the woods. But that’s an often faulty assumption, homeless advocates say. His quality of life was much better inside a home.

“I could tell by the way that Billy talked, that he was tired of being in the woods, wondering where his next meal was or where to go,” Smith said. “I believe that the homeless need a place to call home, not just another tent.”

There’s growing research that society is better off financially by assigning a case worker and a room to anyone on the street, then to react to them when crises emerge. Utah is leading an effort to end homelessness using this strategy.

“From our experience, once basic necessities like housing are met, then we can start addressing other barriers in their life,” said Kurt Wiest, executive director of Bremerton Housing Authority. “The vast majority of those without housing would thrive if given that place that is their own.”

We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, many of the homeless in the woods around Kitsap will continue doing so, just as Langham did for a decade.