Category Archives: Story Walk

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.


Come tour Olympic College’s rare ‘Secret Garden’

Retired Olympic College Professor Susan Digby checks out a Linden Tree at the college’s ‘secret garden.’ Meegan M. Reid photo.

Down a lonely, one-way road off the Olympic College campus is an historic home teeming with eclectic plant life. In recent years, the treasured estate long owned by Dr. Henry and Elizabeth “Billie” Barner has largely gone unnoticed. But place now known as Olympic College’s “Secret Garden,” whose potential is being tapped by a few professors there, is enjoying new life as an outdoor classroom.

And, on Sept. 24, you’ll have a chance to see it for yourself.

Nestled on the shores of the Port Washington Narrows, the property is home to plant life the Barners imported from around the world. Their beautiful residence, admittedly, has seen better days, but is still a piece of history — its design was the first completed by Elizabeth Ayer, the first woman to graduate from the University of Washington’s school of architecture.

As part of the Kitsap Sun’s latest Story Walk, we will tour the property with special guests including Olympic College President David Mitchell, Kitsap Historical Society Director Dean Tingey, and the professors who are utilizing this now Olympic College-owned resource as a learning environment.

RSVP here. The tour is free.


Photos by Meegan M. Reid.

Story Walk: Bunkers and barriers at Marine NAD Park


The Naval Ammunition Depot along the shores of Ostrich Bay might’ve closed in 1959 but evidence of its former life remains. Around 20 bunkers still protrude the dense forest that has grown back in the years since the Navy left its shores.

One bunker.
One bunker.

Thanks to the 75 or so of you who came out for the Kitsap Sun’s latest Story Walk Saturday. (If you couldn’t make it, the park is located at 1900 Shorewood Drive and is open from dawn to dusk. There’s a trail uphill from the parking area that leads to the bunkers; a waterfront paved pathway that runs perhaps a quarter-mile; and shoreline access.)

Regardless of a few showers — one walker referred to it as another “Slosh with Josh” — we got a nice hike in and took a closer look at the controversy surrounding a locked gate that now separates the park from The Landings, formerly Jackson Park.

Here’s a brief timetable of NAD Park, which dates back more than 100 years.

1902: The U.S. Government appropriates money to purchase the land, around 250 acres, of what we now know as the park, Jackson Park and the other portion of NAD Park nearer to Kitsap Lake. The land is purchased for about $14,000.

Photo by Greg Salo.

1908: The “magazine depot” is commissioned; it wouldn’t be until 1916 that it becomes known by the name we know it as today. Picture ships filling Ostrich Bay, waiting for munitions, as there was no water or electricity to the area.

1940: The depot has come into its own, with a wharf, railroad access and around 40 buildings to its name. World War II sees its height as an ammunition depot.

1959: With not much room to grow and new depots developing at Bangor and Indian Island, NAD closes.

1965: Jackson Park Housing is created, named for the US Senator “Scoop” Jackson. Years later, Highway 3 cuts NAD in two when it is built.

More recently: NAD includes a former garbage dump and was classified as an EPA Superfund Site. The Army Corps of Engineers also does cleanups here. Just this month, the Navy is still detonating old munitions found in the tidelands below.

June 11, 2016: A bunch of eager learners head to Marine NAD Park for a Story Walk! Thanks again for coming.


Photo by Greg Salo.
Photo by Greg Salo.
Photo by Greg Salo.
Photo by Greg Salo.
Massive Doug Fir! Photo by Greg Salo.
Massive Doug Fir! Photo by Greg Salo.


A journey through Ivy Green’s history


For about $3,000*, you could be buried at Ivy Green, Bremerton’s municipal cemetery. The hallowed grounds, whose grave sites powerfully convey the history of early and mid-century Bremerton, still has about 2,000 plots left before its vacancy vanishes.

On Saturday, about 130 people joined me for the latest Kitsap Sun Story Walk. We were so fortunate to have a group of speakers with a great knowledge of the approximately 14-acre site. Here’s some of the things we learned along the way.

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Original Charleston Cemetery map. Courtesy of Russell Warren.

Ivy Green Cemetery didn’t start out as just one burial ground. It was two: Charleston, a separate city at the time, established the first burial ground in 1897. Bremerton followed five years later, according to Fredi Perry’s book “Bremerton and PSNY.” When the two cities merged in 1928, the cemeteries also became one.

Ivy Green includes one of only 10 Tomb of the Unknown Soldier memorials in America, Bremerton resident and memorial preservationist Mick Hersey pointed out. Bremerton’s was born when a traveling exhibit actually stopped in the city and decided to stay for good. It’s a replica one-half the size of the original in Arlington National Cemetery. There’s differing views on when it got here, which we are trying to sort out.

One last note on the Tomb: no one is buried there.

The cemetery includes a Medal of Honor recipient: John Nibbe. At age 17, Nibbe stood his ground aboard the USS Peterel as Confederate forces in the Yazoo River of Mississippi fired on the ship. Just about everyone died. But not him. Awarded the honor by President Lincoln, Nibbe then set sail (via Cape Horn) for the west coast, first coming to Point White on Bainbridge Island. In 1896 he opened a general store in downtown Bremerton and also served as postmaster there. He died in 1902 of Bright’s Disease.

Saratoga Memorial.
Saratoga Memorial.

A grave surrounded by Rhododendrons is perhaps the cemetery’s best known. It honors 64 people who died aboard the USS Saratoga when it came under heavy fire from Japanese forces during World War II in 1945. The ship limped back to Bremerton with dead sailors and marines aboard. Those who could not be identified were buried in this collective grave. Hersey explained that it was not until 1992 that the remains were identified.

The cemetery is full of prominent Bremertonians of yesteryear. They include Benjamin and Angie Harrison, creators of the hospital that still bears their name; Charles Dietz, a businessman whose Dietz building still stands in downtown Bremerton; and Warren Smith, a prominent landowner who is the namesake of both Warren Avenue and Smith Cove in Evergreen-Rotary Park.

Wesley Harris’ gravesite.

One of my favorite things about our Story Walks is that we all learn together. It also gave me an idea: a digital map of the grave sites, something I hope we can produce in the future.

If you were along, I encourage you to leave a fact or story you learned below. In the meantime, I’ll get to planning our next walk for May.

*The cost of burial there is 25 percent more if you live outside city limits.

Forgive my handwriting.
Forgive my handwriting.

Story Walk: the persisting Illahee Preserve

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Photo by Steve Fisher.

The most important thing about the Illahee Preserve in Mike Taylor’s mind? “Simply that it persists,” he said.

Passersby of the more than 500-acre forest off Highway 303 might assume its enduring legacy is secured. Not so. For much of Taylor’s life, he’s watched the land be logged, used as a garbage dump and as a haven for off-roading vehicles.

The 500-year-old tree.

Today, that forest has largely been cleaned up and returned to its pristine past. Its location in one of the densest areas of Kitsap County makes such forestland invaluable, say the stewards who help maintain it. Some, including Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, see it as a kind of Central Park for Bremerton as the city grows to encompass it in the coming years.

About 110 of you ventured to the woods of Illahee Saturday for the Kitsap Sun’s latest Story Walk. That includes Taylor, who has lived nearby for most of his life. It includes Jim Aho, a forest steward whose involvement in all things Illahee has given rise to his nickname as its mayor. And finally, it includes Vic Ulsh, who has headed East Bremerton Rotary’s involvement in keeping up the forest since that organization adopted the woods as a major project in 2005.

But as I mentioned, it did not have to be this way. In the early 1700s, a fire burned down most of the woods there, giving rise to some more diverse conifers including white pines and Western Hemlocks (to go with the Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedars and Madrona we all know and love). It was logged at least twice since. It became federal trust land before it was turned over to the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

On at least three occasions, it could have been sold for development but neighbors fought back, according to Ulsh. Kitsap County took it over in 1999. Aho, Ulsh and others have been maintaining it since.

But they’re not stopping at its current boundaries. Last year, a successful effort to purchase what became known as “The Lost Continent,” brought in another 25 acres. The stewards hope to extend the preserve all the way to Illahee State Park one day, to create a wildlife corridor and a stream — Illahee Creek — that can remain in its natural state.

Already, the forest is home to some treasures of nature, including this 500-year-old tree that got its share of hugs Saturday afternoon.

Photo by Steve Fisher.
Photo by Steve Fisher.

Investigating death: inside the lives of coroners and dispatchers

Within four years’ time, Kitsap County’s 911 dispatch center and its morgue went from being among the most antiquated in the state to the most sophisticated. Kitsap County Central Communications moved from a toll house on Warren Avenue into an $11 million, state-of-the-art facility in West Hills in 2005. Four years later, the coroner’s office, once housed in a dilapidated house next to the jail, also moved to West Hills in a $3.6 million campus still considered among the most advanced in the state.

On Saturday, nearly 200 people came to the Kitsap Sun’s latest Story Walk at the two facilities, getting an inside look into the life of a coroner and a dispatcher.


Within the dispatch center, Brandy D’Intinosanto, its dayshift supervisor who has been with the agency more than 12 years, led tours right to the floor of dispatch, the high-tech, bulletproof hive of the county’s emergency response system. It continues to be on the cutting edge, as Kitsap was the first to allow residents to text 911, she said.

Our 911 dispatchers create 200,000 cases, or “details,” every year. They handle even more calls than that. D’Intinosanto mentioned that even if most, if not all of their generator-backed technology were to fail, they are still trained in a handwritten card system that would keep our emergency responders moving.

The tours Saturday happened to overlap with the deadliest case of domestic violence on the Kitsap peninsula in modern history, in which Mason County authorities said a man killed four people before killing himself. Kitsap County Coroner Greg Sandstrom said Saturday his office was assisting Mason County with those death investigations.

The worst violence prior to the Mason County mass shooting was in 1934, when a man bludgeoned six people to death in what would become known as the Erland’s Point Massacre. Following that case, a sheriff’s deputy is said to have let people walk through the crime scene for a quarter.

Sandstrom’s badge.


I’d like to think such a lapse in the investigative process would not occur today. The coroner’s office investigates about 350 of the total 2,000 deaths that occur in Kitsap each year. They focus on traumatic and suspicious deaths, conducting autopsies to help determine the cause of death. They also pin down the manner of death, which can be one of four things: homicide, suicide, accident or natural.

Police have the job of investigating the scene of the crime; the coroner’s office has custody of the body. Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan came along Saturday and talked of the “honor” involved in death cases — that it is never something his officers take lightly.

Sandstrom, who has been Kitsap’s elected coroner since 1998, is a former Washington State trooper and chaplain who talked Saturday of one of the office’s most paramount duties: death notifications. He and his deputies have the task of delivering the news of death to next of kin. They once did so in vehicles marked “coroner’s office,” but that changed on Sandstrom’s watch, Chief Deputy Coroner Tony Stewart told the crowd. The reason? It made a private family matter something very public when they’d arrive in someone’s driveway.

Kitsap County Coroner Greg Sandstrom (left) and Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan.
Kitsap County Coroner Greg Sandstrom (left) and Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan.

The coroner’s office contracts with a forensic pathologist to conduct autopsies. The biggest counties in Washington have medical examiners, or actual doctors hired by the county. Kitsap could convert to that system, as counties over 250,000 residents can, but there’s been no push to do so. Strachan pointed out Saturday that the medical examiner system is costly.

Thanks, everyone, who came out on Saturday. As usual, we all learned a lot. Be sure to email me at with any questions or concerns.

Also, be sure to subscribe to Bremerton Beat updates on this page and I’ll be sure to post an update when I know where the March Story Walk is going to be.


The evolution of the Evergreen Park neighborhood

Photo by Patrick Kerber.
Photo by Patrick Kerber.

Despite a relentless rain shower, we had one heck of a turnout for Saturday’s Story Walk of Evergreen-Rotary Park. The park — and the neighborhood around it — is changing rapidly. Here’s a rundown of all the things we learned Saturday:

The park — back then just the 11.5 acres closest to Park Avenue — was leased to the city by Warren Smith in 1901, and formally became a park in 1908 or 1909.

The old pavilion at Evergreen.
The old pavilion at Evergreen.

An early pavilion constructed there was known as a “blind pig” and “bawdy house” due to the drinking and other debauchery that took place there.

The city’s first power plant was a lumber mill that existed near Smith Cove. The lumber mill’s operators would burn refuse that would operate a primitive turbine that generated power.

The park had campgrounds following World War I; during the war years, it was taken over by the federal government for training and housing military personnel.

The Bremerton Memorial Swimming Pool was constructed there (outdoors) in 1953, thanks to an $80,000 donation from the Lions Club. It would remain open until an indoor pool was built in East Bremerton in 1979.

Photo by Patrick Kerber. Thanks, Patrick!
Photo by Patrick Kerber. Thanks, Patrick!

The “other side” of the park — where the 9/11 Memorial exists now — was once an industrial zone. Steam laundries, coal and gravel bunkers, and bulk oil storage abounded. One of the oil tanks was actually an old submarine torpedo boat once known as the USS Fox. It would take years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, to cleanup the area, to include the Chevron site.

In recent years, the park has seen a number of improvements. The 9/11 memorial was completed in 2013 with private funding. The All-Accessible Playground was completed in 2014 with a combined $523,000 in grants and private funding. This year, close to a half-million dollars is going to revamp the boat ramp and launch, a combined project by the state, Port of Bremerton and city.

Trish Williams, developer of the Evergreen-Pointe Apartments near the park on Sheldon Boulevard, was on hand Saturday to answer questions. Her project, which she says will start “going vertical” in the late spring, will have a 95 unit complex and a smaller 14 unit one off Sheldon Boulevard. Williams said she’s working with the city to establish a public walking path through the middle of the project.

Evergreen Pointe apartments rendering.

Williams also touched on some retail possibilities in those spaces she’s constructing, to include a wine bar, bike store and donut shop.

The Quonset Hut on 13th Street near the park continues to develop as Saboteur Bakery (which also just opened a location downtown).

The city’s Washington Avenue reconstruction contractor, RV Associates, continues to mend the two sides of what will now be a larger park together. Thanks to shutting down a beach sewer line, crews have been able to remove a sewer pump station, roadway and power lines. In their place will be more grassland, walking pathways and a way to relax and enjoy the waterfront.

Photo by Patrick Kerber.
Photo by Patrick Kerber.

Inside Honor Bar, where we warmed up following the rainy walk, Chef and Owner Alan Davis explained why he and his wife Jodi opened the restaurant in Bremerton — and also gave an overview of Paella (as he makes a crazy good version of it).

Also, a special thanks to CJ’s Evergreen General Store for giving us a starting point for the walk.

And as for that rock with the face on it? We couldn’t find it Saturday, but here’s the story about it.

Thanks to all who attended!


Who will live in Bremerton’s new apartments?

The 606.
The 606.

Jude Willcher was looking for a better deal on her rent. The Seattle resident, who currently lives on First Hill, looked at all points north, east and south.

A friend reminded her of the last option: west.

In late-August, she took the ferry to Bremerton, taking in downtown and noting the construction of The 606 apartments on Burwell Street.

She was sold.

“I said, hey, this is all I need in one spot,” she said. “And I can walk to the ferry.”

Willcher is among the first residents of the 71-unit complex, set to open in December. Garret Quaiver, the building’s manager, has already rented out about a third of the units, many around $1,000 a month. Other renters so far include workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and sailors.

For Willcher, her rent payment will drop by about half. And while she has a car, she’d prefer to take a boat to her job in downtown Seattle.

“In most places I would have an hour commute anyway,” she said. “This way I get some quality time.”

Next Tuesday, the Kitsap Sun will host its latest Story Walk in Bremerton: a tour of the 606 and SEEfilm Cinemas. We’ll begin at 5 p.m. at the theater, 655 Fourth Street. The tour will include a discussion with PJ Santos, the project’s developer.

The nearby Sweet and Smokey Diner and Toro Lounge will also be catering the event. Hope you can make it. RSVP here.

UPDATE: Special thanks to all who came out! We hosted about 110 people, our biggest Story Walk ever! 

Here’s links to our previous Story Walks this year.

Behind the scenes at the Bremerton Symphony

Campus at a crossroads 

Is the Cove turning a corner? 

Storywalking history, the Roxy, and all things hoppy

Walking the new Westpark

The new Lower Wheaton Way

Washington Avenue, past and present

The meandering Madrona Forest

Redwood Rendezvous in West Bremerton

Fourth Street’s Economic Divide

Behind the scenes at Bremerton’s symphony


After a flood had damaged Mary-Cathern Edwards’ Manchester home, an insurance agent came out and … checked out her cello.

The agent happened to be president of the Bremerton Symphony board, and they needed a cellist. Edwards accepted the challenge.

That was 42 years ago.

“I’ve been there close to the longest,” Edwards said. “There’s a great camaraderie, a great community musical effort. It’s such a cool thing to be able to share.”

On Friday night, 6:30 p.m., the venerable Bremerton Symphony, on the eve of its season opener, will throw open the doors for the Kitsap Sun’s latest story walk.

Some 60 musicians will be doing their seventh and final rehearsal of “Dvořák the Romantic,” at the Bremerton Performing Arts Center.

“We’re from all walks of life,” said William Ferman, a Bremerton physician who plays clarinet in the symphony. “It’s a real cross section of the community.” ‘

We’ll hear Friday from Conductor Alan Futterman and several musicians before they begin the rehearsal. I’m especially curious about what it takes, mechanically, to bring all the moving parts of a symphony together.

The result is beautiful music — and you’ll be able to watch the entire performance. I think this is a real treat, and I hope you’ll join us.

“To be able to join together and as a unit perform these great works — you can’t describe the joy it brings,” added Ferman.

To RSVP, click here, or just show up.

Here are links to our previous story walks:

Campus at a crossroads 

Is the Cove turning a corner? 

Storywalking history, the Roxy, and all things hoppy

Walking the new Westpark

The new Lower Wheaton Way

Washington Avenue, past and present

The meandering Madrona Forest

Redwood Rendezvous in West Bremerton

Fourth Street’s Economic Divide

An abundance of asbestos: why the old East High hasn’t come down


Shame the producers of a SyFy zombie drama did not stick around Bremerton after filming aboard the USS Turner Joy recently. They could have found the disrepair of Bremerton’s former East High School campus fitting for scenes of a post-apocalyptic world.

About 100 of you came with me to the old school of Wheaton Way last Tuesday to tour the decaying school, and discuss a way forward to relinquish the property of a 125,000-square foot carcass we all agree is holding it back.


Many ideas have been floated for the property, owned by the Bremerton School District. I also do not want to undervalue the amazing things that are already happening there, primarily a teen center, soon-to-be renovated gymnasium and a number of sports fields already teeming with practicing youth.

But first things first.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get those buildings down,” Aaron Leavell, Bremerton School District superintendent, told me.

Leavell said a survey in 2013 found it would cost about $1.5 million to tear down the building. The district doesn’t have the money to complete the job right now but would like to take care of it “sooner rather than later,” Leavell acknowledged at our Story Walk last week.

“As time goes on, things don’t get cheaper,” he said.

The hard part isn’t the demolition work itself. It’s the abatement of asbestos, a once commonly used construction material now known to be carcinogenic. And there’s a lot of it in the building: in the ceiling tiles, the floor tiles, the downspouts on the gutters and even in putty used in the window seals.

With those environmental concerns in mind, Leavell has been meeting with Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent to find a solution. They’ve even held a meeting with officials from the federal Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to identify possible grants available. While the property’s not a Superfund site, Leavell believes applying for federal grant assistance is worth a shot. They’ve completed the first phase of the grant process, he said.

The good news: the historic gym's not going anywhere.
The good news: the historic gym’s not going anywhere. Photo by Mark Morton.

“You never know until you try,” Leavell said.

The superintendent said he and the school board are open to discussions for local funding, to include the possibility of a new capital levy when the existing one expires. Notwithstanding community support for myriad possibilities there, Leavell added that nearby View Ridge and Armin Jahr elementary schools aren’t getting any younger. Perhaps a new school could be built there, too.

“Everybody recognizes the potential for this property to really be the eastside hub for great things,” he said. “But we’ve got to get through the first hurdle first.”

At last Tuesday's Story Walk. Photos by Margret Mountjoy.
At last Tuesday’s Story Walk. Photos by Margret Mountjoy.