Category Archives: Parks

The hidden beauty of Stephenson Canyon


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.

Lots of ferns cover the canyon’s walls.

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:

  1. Learn the history and the layout of this magnificent green space, so you may enjoy it in the future;
  2. 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.


SOLVED: The mystery of the missing fire hydrant

Photo by Kim Demko.

If you’ve spent time at Pendergast’s “Bark Park,” you know about the charming fire hydrant to which countless visiting dogs have, shall we say, laid territorial claims. 

That is, until early last week, when the hydrant mysteriously disappeared.

The old hydrant.

Kim Demko, a frequent visitor to the park with her dog, was saddened to find it gone. The hydrant was the only permanent “ornament” at the park, one she was told might be one day incorporated into a water system should one be installed there.

“It was also a friendly confirmation that you had actually arrived at the location of the dog park,” she told me. 

I had to wonder: who steals a fire hydrant? The thing weighs about 500 pounds, so whoever did it came prepared. Demko circulated word on Facebook about the theft. I inquired with the police department.

As it turns out, it was no thief at all — just its original owner bringing it out of retirement. Bremerton Public Works crews snagged it to take some parts and repair a hydrant damaged in a crash Sept. 2 at Almira Drive and Sylvan Way on the east side.

“It was the only one left that we had,” said Bremerton Public Works Administration Manager Milenka Hawkins-Bates.

And there’s good news for dog park users: the city was able to place another hydrant out at the park Wednesday. Its artful design (above, at the top of the page) was painted by Darrell Clauson, a lead in public works’ wastewater and stormwater division.

Oh, and lest I forget, some improvements are coming to the bark park. I’ll have more on that in an upcoming story in the Kitsap Sun.

A fountainless Bremerton in 2016

Before the dark times.
Before the dark times.

Bremerton’s Harborside Fountain Park will be a decade old in 2017. Unfortunately, that’s also the next time the submarine sail-shaped spouts will operate again.

City officials made the call this week to forgo attempts to get the fountains back up and running in time for this year’s summer season. Regulatory hoops and repairs, to make the park safe for water waders, will eat up the entire year, Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent said Thursday.

“It’s very disappointing,” Lent lamented. “On the hot days, those fountains draw so many people downtown. And our downtown couldn’t look prettier.”

The fountains will be dry ’til 2017. Parks director Jeff Elevado pictured. Photos by Meegan M. Reid.

As a consolation, the city will fire up the sprinklers from noon to 3 p.m. Friday (Aug. 26) at Evergreen-Rotary Park, Lent said. There could be more sprinkler outings on subsequent hot days.

Under Lent’s watch, the fountains have turned on each year in March (former Mayor Cary Bozeman would run them year round, but Lent thought it a prudent cost savings measure to turn them off in winter). Not this year. The city’s parks department, which maintains them, has grown increasingly concerned that the mechanisms keeping them going are failing.

The $20 million fountain park, formerly a rather unsightly lay-down yard within the shipyard, was not meant to be a swimming pool. But treating them as such has taken a toll. So city officials have authorized up to $100,000 in Real Estate Excise Tax funds to reconstruct filtration, control systems and upgrade plumbing. The goal is to ensure the water’s safe for human contact.


But the fountains also caught the eye of both the state and county’s health departments. The city had to apply for permitting to make the fountain park a recreational water facility. That took several months earlier this year. Even now, with approval, a bunch of parts needed for the repairs remain on back order.

Lent said that even once the repairs are done, the state and county health departments will want to conduct testing to ensure the water is safe. That’s going to take time, and sadly, that means Bremerton’s fountain park will be fully fountainless through 2016.

Students give Lions Park shoreline some love


A war has been waged along Lions Park’s nearly 2,000 feet of shoreline ever since the park was redeveloped. But no matter how hard the volunteers worked along the Port Washington Narrows, the weeds just kept coming.

The city parks department has an “adopt a shoreline” program aimed at giving volunteers their own little slice of coast to maintain. But on Friday, parks officials decided to change up the strategy a bit in what will likely put the weeds into submission for awhile.

A small army of volunteers, many of them students of the Washington Youth Academy, helped grub the parkland’s edge with Puget Sound before spreading a new coat of beauty bark along the entire coastline. Some new plants went in as well, paid for by some of the salary of the late Mike Sullivan, the former City Councilman who represented the area.

The rugged work was not only to build stamina but learn a lesson in community, Youth Academy Master Sgt. Ayesha Willis said.

“It’s showing them a different side of the world,” she said. “It’s empowering.”

The Bremerton park inspired by the Seattle World’s Fair

City leaders pose for a photo as Roto Vista Park is constructed in 1962.
City leaders look over plans as Roto Vista Park is constructed in 1962.

Buried deep in the files at Bremerton’s parks department, I found the answer I was looking for. Earlier this summer, as residents rallied to take back Lower Roto Vista Park from miscreants, one question kept on plaguing my efforts to tell the full story.

What in the heck is a “Roto Vista?”


In 1962, as the universe converged on Seattle for the Century 21 Exposition — better known as the World’s Fair — Bremerton’s Rotary Club pledged to build a new park as part of a statewide beautification program  to compliment the Seattle festivities. A total of $2,369.32 was spent over two years to create a park next to the old toll booth for the Warren Avenue Bridge, later inhabited by the county’s 911 dispatchers.

“Thousands of hours of work, contributed freely by the membership, has resulted in beautifying a spot which had been taken over by Scotch Broom and weeds,” Rotary officials wrote in city documents.

A contest was held to name the new park. The winner was a Mrs. Benny Getschman, whose husband was a Rotary club officer in the 1960’s. Sadly, I could not find documentation of her inspiration for the park’s name. But in one reference, it appears the park’s name is also spelled “Rotor,” suggesting to me it was a nickname Rotarians used, frankly, because the park’s name just rolled off the tongue a little bit better than “Rotary Vista.”

Keep in mind that the park in those days was just the upper portion. Lower Roto Vista park came later, in 1996, Puget Power & Light company, which owned the property on the waterfront by the bridge, decided to hand it over to the city for another pocket park.

Today, you can view the state’s largest colony of pelagic cormorants as they nest under the Warren Avenue Bridge there.  



Work wraps up on Walker Park — but there’s a catch

Alex Mesick (right) and a crew from the Puget Sound Corps plant a garden at the Lillian and James Walker Park in West Bremerton. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
Alex Mesick (right) and a crew from the Puget Sound Corps plant a garden at the Lillian and James Walker Park in West Bremerton. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

Construction of Bremerton’s newest park is almost entirely complete. The grass is growing and the trees have been planted at Lillian and James Walker Park, on the banks of Anderson Cove.

The city, however, is hesitant to open it just yet. Wyn Birkenthal, director of Bremerton’s parks department, says new grass planted there isn’t ready for people just yet.

“While we could hold an opening at this level of completion, a danger is that citizens will consider the site open for use and the recent hydroseeding will be exposed to foot traffic combined with winter rains that would cause us to reseed and replant  further delaying public use of the area,” he told me.

At 2/3 of an acre, the park will give residents of this West Bremerton area a waterfront parkland — something they’ve not had before.

Birkenthal also pointed out that those who advocated for the park’s naming — in honor of James and Lillian Walker, who helped pierce a culture of segregation in Bremerton in the civil rights struggle — need time to be involved in its inauguration.

“I want to make sure we take the time to involve these groups and individuals in the Park opening,” Birkenthal said. “We are not there yet as all efforts have gone toward physical work on the park.” 

You may have joined us for a walk through Anderson Cove in August, where we got to explore the park before it was hydroseeded. Looks like it will be a few more months before we’ll be able to go back.

The grand opening is slated for May 2016.

The new park in Anderson Cove is almost done.
The new park in Anderson Cove in summer 2015.

The odd asphalt sidewalks on Washington Avenue


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.

The Towers project rendering.
The Towers project rendering.

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 lighting.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 11.22.11 AM





Followup: City planned to chop down tree that destroyed Cadillac


That pine tree that came dangerously close to taking a man’s life at Lions Park on Monday? It had been earmarked by the city’s parks and recreation department for removal.

“The root system on the north side of the tree was showing it uprooting a tiny bit,” said Tom Cressman, Bremerton parks maintenance manager.

Parks staff, in consultation with Puget Sound Energy municipal liaison and city tree committee member Tom Brobst, made the call April 29.

“It was not an immediate threat to anything, so we thought we had some time to remove it,” Cressman said.


Parks staff, which has been busy with not only maintenance but the construction of a new park in Anderson Cove, didn’t get to it before Monday, when it collapsed. Paul Oakes, there to umpire a game, got a warning from one of the trees pinecones hitting him on the shoulder before the 40-foot tree fell. He escaped by inches. His Cadillac wasn’t so lucky.

Brobst told parks staff that two neighboring pine trees should also come down. So on Tuesday, parks staff took down the two other pines while they cleaned up the first one that fell.

“So we should be good there in that area,” Cressman said.

Bremerton’s best kept — and most decorated — military secret

Did you know that the most decorated vessel in U.S. Navy history is perched right here* in Bremerton?

Next time you take a walk downtown — perhaps Saturday for the Armed Forces Day parade — be sure to go to the entrance of the Harborside Fountain Park. There, you’ll find the sail of the USS Parche, a vessel highly decorated but largely unknown.


Why? As you’ll learn in the above video, the Parche did a lot of spying in the Cold War years. While its missions are still classified, some believe it was tapping telephone cables within Soviet seas, unearthing a wealth of intelligence. Many details can be found in the book “Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage.”

In any case, president after president praised the boat and its crew just about every time it came home. As reporter Andy Binion noted when the sail was installed here:

The submarine earned 13 Expeditionary Medals, 10 Navy Unit commendations and nine presidential unit citations, making it the most decorated submarine in U.S. Navy history.


I’d encourage you to check out Mick Hersey’s master list here to check out all of the military memorials in Kitsap County.

Hope to see you Saturday at the parade. Oh, and don’t forget to take our quiz of Kitsap County military history.


*It’s the sail of the Parche submarine sits just outside Harborside Fountain Park. The rest of the vessel did not come with it.

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.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 8.16.30 PM

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.