“Loving Island Life” Bainbridge Parks Part 3
For our next installment in our Bainbridge Island parks series, we at “Loving Island Life” would like to share two parks on the south end of the island, both are beautiful, historically significant, and they are linked by a 1.25 mile easy trail. Slip on your walking shoes and we’ll hope to see you out there!
“Fort Ward Park is a 137-acre marine park with 4,300 feet of saltwater shoreline on Rich Passage. Many of the structures in the park reflect the historic military significance of the area, but the park is well developed for day use. There is an underwater park for scuba divers, a two-lane boat ramp and a long, rocky beach along Rich Passage. This park is on the Cascadia Marine Trail, campsites are on a first come first serve basis for paddle craft users only. There are limited services available and we ask that patrons practice “leave no trace” principals. There are 12 unsheltered picnic tables with grills, available first come, first served. The upper picnic area is accessible by automobile. The lower picnic area (along Rich Passage) is accessible by foot only.”
Access to the boat launch (which is available free of charge) and lower picnic areas at Fort Ward Park is located at 2241 Pleasant Beach Rd NE. There are parking spaces, restrooms, picnic tables, and trash receptacles at this location.
Fort Ward Park’s upper parking lot is located on the east side of the park, accessible from Fort Ward Hill Road NE and has picnic tables and easy access to the Fort Ward to Blakely Harbor trail system.
A bit of local history: After World War II, the U.S. Navy used a radio tower (once located adjacent to the park and east of the upper picnic area) to send messages to Navy Command in Seattle at Pier 91. In 1903, Fort Ward was officially commissioned as a seacoast fort with the primary objective of protecting the Bremerton Naval Shipyard. Two gun batteries are located in the park. During World War II, the navy used the fort as a radio station and training school for communication personnel and installed a submarine net across Rich Passage. In 1958, the navy decommissioned the fort, and State Parks purchased Fort Ward in 1960. Ownership of the Park was transferred to the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District June 4, 2011.
Blakely Harbor Park
This is another local park with a very interesting history. “This 40-acre park is on the former site of Port Blakely Mill, one of the world’s largest sawmills in the late 1800’s. This park is in the process of being developed for passive recreational use such as picnicking, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. On December 15, 1999, the initial 20-acre parcel was purchased by the Bainbridge Island Park District from Port Blakely Tree Farms, following several years of negotiations by the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, the Park District, and other island volunteers to preserve this historically significant property. The purchase was made possible through a grant from the Recreation Conservation Office, $1 million raised through Land Trust volunteer fundraising efforts, and support from the City of Bainbridge Island and Kitsap County. An additional 18 acres was purchased in November 2001, increasing the total Blakely Harbor Park acreage to 40 acres.”
The park is located at the head of Blakely Harbor. Closest cross streets: Blakely Avenue and 3-T Road.
A bit of local history: Yama is the 7-acre portion of Blakely Harbor Park that was once the site of the Japanese community associated with Blakely’s lumber mill era and an important aspect joined with other local and immigrant labor endeavors that helped make Blakely a significant 19th century community. The Bainbridge Island Historical Society is currently working on a preservation plan for this historically and archeaologically significant portion of the park.
Fort Ward-to-Blakely Harbor Trail
“The Fort Ward-to-Blakely Harbor Trail creates an important link between the two largest parks on the southern end of Bainbridge Island, Fort Ward Park and Blakely Harbor Park. The trail provides a pleasant meandering walk through a thick forest of Douglas Fir and Big Leaf Maple trees and wetland areas.
Other trails nearby include the Fort Ward Trail System, accessed from the same parking lot off Fort Ward Hill Road NE, and the Blakely Harbor and Blakely Cemetery Trails, both accessed from roadside parking on Blakely Avenue NE.
As its name suggests, the Fort Ward-to-Blakely Harbor Trail links Fort Ward Park to Blakely Harbor Park and can be accessed from either end. From Fort Ward Park, the trail can be accessed from the Fort Ward Trail approximately 0.1 miles north of the Fort Ward Park parking lot off Fort Ward Hill Road NE. This parking lot has sufficient parking, a restroom, and trash facilities. The trail can also be accessed at Blakely Harbor Park from a trailhead parking lot on NE Country Club Road. At this parking lot, there are 5 parking spaces and no restroom or trash facilities.”
This 1.25 mile trail is dog friendly, and appropriate for hiking, biking and horses.
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