BI OKs trail connection near preserve

Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation District commissioners have voted for staff to apply for permits for the Vincent Road to Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve trail.

After hearing a history lesson from Park Services Division director Dan Hamlin, Commissioner Dawn Janow said the trail connection has been in the works for 30 years.

Many opponents say the trail connection violates the conservation easement, but Hamlin said the BI Land Trust says that is not true. Foes objected to the connection because it would increase usage in and near the preserve.

In explaining the background, Hamlin said in the 1995 conservation easement on the preserve there is language about reserved rights that include trails and viewpoints. The 1996 master plan reflects a desire to make sure there was appropriate public use.

The connection is a key portion of the preserve to Winslow trail. Hamlin said it connects to Kojima Avenue which connects to Fletcher Bay Road, and then into Lost Valley, and up to the Charles Schmid Waterfront Trail in Winslow.

There are about 200 feet of new trail that would be within the preserve to connect to the Opal Ridge trail.

The wildlife review of the master plan says the proposal provides an appropriate balance between conservation and recreation. A study shows there was no evidence it would increase adverse effects on wildlife.

The district received a grant for the purchase of the preserve through IAC, now known as the Recreation and Conservation Office. The grant included the possibility of a connection from the Opal Ridge trail to Vincent Road.

Commissioner Tom Swolgaard said having people on this trail will get people off the roads.

Potential future actions include a master plan update and formal approval. Multi-agency education campaigns are underway for off-leash dog education and responsible recreation.

Commissioner Ken DeWitt later said the RCO recently put out a report on outdoor recreation. Non-motorized access is the No. 1 priority mentioned by people in the state. He said the district is on the right path approving the Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve to Vincent Road trail connection.

In other news, Hamlin said staff is looking to start construction of the Fort Ward Parade Grounds playground in the next few weeks.

Executive director Terry Lande said the Bainbridge Community Tennis Association favors building new courts at Sakai Park rather than sharing the courts at Battle Point. Lande also said that they are in the process of hiring a swim coach for the BI Swim Club. The BI Recreation Center had 1,661 members at the end of July, and parks recently had its largest crowd ever at a Sounds of Summer concert.

Commissioner Jon Kinney said that he heard there is a possibility of a private organization building a fieldhouse and maybe a pool on BI. He also said pickleball may be outgrowing Battle Point Park, and it may need to move to Strawberry Hill Park because there is too big of an impact at Battle Point.