BI parks selects Strawberry for major upgrades

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Strawberry Hill Park is ripe for improvement.

The Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation Board decided last week to take a serious look at what this facility should look like in the future.

The board hopes a concept plan can be developed before its retreat on March 10 and 24 from 6 to 8 p.m.

The council also discussed a concept plan for other parks, but Commissioner Dawn Janow said there was no time for that.

Strawberry Hill Park is already undergoing major changes. A new skateboarding area for those with less experience is being planned. And, thanks to a donation of 10 acres of land nearby, so does a mountain bike trail system.

The park already has a tennis court and a few ball courts, but the council would like to upgrade these, perhaps even with grass courts.

New park commissioner Tom Goodlin said the district should come up with pros and cons on the best places to put sod fields. Other possibilities include Battle Point Park, High School, Sands Field, and between Sakai and Woodward. Dan Hamlin of the Parks Department said the same should be done for new tennis courts.

President Ken DeWitt said they are restricted to high school and Sands Field because they belong to the BI school district. Commissioner Tom Swolgaard said he mentioned last year that the district should develop a master plan. “We have to get on with it.”

Parks executive director Terry Lande said a concept plan was needed for Strawberry, Battle Point and Sakai “to find out what’s possible and what’s not at the three sites”. DeWitt said he preferred to see it as a package, rather than separate, with Strawberry the center of attention.

But Janow was the voice of reason, saying this would all take a long time. The Council’s vision is to enhance Strawberry Hill Park and “give it the justice it deserves”.

Also at the meeting, DeWitt spoke about goals for 2022.

He wants to develop relationships with different agencies. As with the city, he would like to work with park zoning to streamline the process with fewer conditional use permits. He wants to work with BISD on the turf fields. DeWitt wants to work with the BI Land Trust on wildlife corridors, more parking at Gazzam, and trail development on Soutter’s former plot. And he wants to continue partnerships with the BI Parks Foundation.

Regarding maintenance, there are concerns about the capacity of the toilets at Battle Point. One day this winter they had to be closed because they were overrun. “Much more used than they were designed for,” Hamlin said.

Regarding capital needs, DeWitt mentioned pool repairs at the Aquatic Center and a cover for the pool at the Bainbridge Island Recreation Center to allow for multi-season use, which would help with more swimming lessons that are absolutely necessary.

Reducing barriers on main trails to allow for increased accessibility was also mentioned, as was parking in Grand Forest West.

As for the BIRC, it now has 1,362 members and continues to grow. Popular classes include: Aquafitness, dance workshops with a Zoom instructor, outdoor pickleball for youth, after-school badminton, chess camp, Valentine’s Day cooking class, and high school boys’ gymnastics.

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