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Strawberry Cannery Cove Restoration

Meghan Walker

Construction is starting Monday to transform Bainbridge Island's Strawberry Cannery Cove Waterfront Park. The historic park is going to be turned into a fish and wildlife reserve. But some island residents are unhappy about that. KUOW's Meghan Walker has the story.


The Strawberry Cannery Cove Park is a sanctuary for some Bainbridge Islanders. It's at the end of a long, wooded inlet called Eagle Harbor. The cove used to be the site of an old strawberry cannery. Low concrete walls line the beach area, remnants of the old cannery building that burned down 13 years ago.

Elfendahl: "Right now, you go down and you look at a place where a large building had been, and where it was scorched earth, and now it's covered with all kind of plants, and pickle weed and all kind of stuff, and it's lush, and it's beautiful. It's a natural swamp and the cove is still there."

That's Gerry Elfendahl, a Bainbridge Island historian. In 2005, the city of Bainbridge acquired the park through a land swap. Ever since then, the city has been working on a plan to restore it.

Libby Hudson is a city planning manager.

Hudson: "One of the tricky things is using restoration projects on public lands. So the recognition is that this is a site for recreation purposes. But a park purpose also is for habitat. And so those are compatible and that's what we're doing here. We're doing two good things that I think our community will really enjoy into the future."

The city plans to take out the old concrete walls and create a salt water marsh with a sandy beach in its place. The plan also includes a non–motorized boat launch and a long pier. But Gerry Elfendahl, the historian, says the area doesn't need to be restored. Furthermore, he says the initial ecological survey of the cove was flawed.

Elfendahl: "For five solid years, in every grant report, in every pre–grant application, for construction, for design, through all the volunteer experts and even the Elliott Bay Trustee Council, all were told this was the 186th worst out of 201."

That's out of 201 shorelines on the island that were surveyed. A low ranking means the site needs restoration. But, as it turns out, the cove actually ranks much higher.

Elfendahl: "And in fact, the strawberry cannery, it wasn't in the bottom 20th percentile, it wasn't even the middle percentile, it was in the top 20 percent. It ranked number 40 in the top."

It was the property next to the cove that ranked so low. Despite the mix–up, the city of Bainbridge has pushed through with restoration plans. Officials say it's still an important shoreline to enhance. The park will reopen to the public in October.

For KUOW News, I'm Meghan Walker.

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