Bremerton’s looking a bit better this week.
That’s due in part to about 100 volunteers who joined city crews Saturday to clean up a median at the southern entrance to Bremerton known as the Gateway, a stretch of divided roadway that runs along Highway 304 and Charleston Boulevard.
The massive volunteer effort was spearheaded by Manette resident Jane Rebelowski who grew tired of driving by the overgrown median and approached the city to find a solution.
“I think the greatest thing was folks from all different backgrounds laughing and working very hard together,” she said. “We did not accomplish all that we hoped but I also think we underestimated just how much work was out there.”
Rebelowski estimates that volunteers managed to clear weeds and trim bushes on close to 1,300 feet of the median, leaving about 2,000 feet to be cleaned up later.
“I plan on starting promotion of Phase II in January,” Rebelowski said. “I hope more local businesses including our banks, credit unions, car dealerships, the real estate community and others are able to join in with the many energetic volunteers that showed up this past Saturday.”
Bremerton Parks and Recreation Director Wyn Birkenthal spoke fondly of partnering with Rebelowski and all the other volunteers.
“It was a fantastic show of what a community can do when the impetus comes from a citizen (Jane) and government is open to assisting that citizen with the project,” Birkenthal said. “I actually thought there might be a few more volunteers Saturday, however the volunteers that came to the cleanup were mostly all-in, all-day workers. I had the same volunteer pulling weeds beside me at 2 p.m. as I started with at 8:30 a.m., and there were many of that same ilk.”
Birkenthal also spoke about other recent collaborations between the city and volunteers and why Saturday’s event is unique.
“There have been a boat-load of recent volunteer projects in the parks that were successful, this one is different as the success is visible to everyone who approaches the city from the south,” he said. “Because of the profile it’s easier for the project to view Bremerton as someplace where participation makes a real difference.”
Rebelowski and Birkenthal both noted that a large contingent of volunteers were sailors from the USS Stennis. In addition, a lot of folks from Oxford House, the WSU Alumni Association, elected officials, candidates for offices and many others all pitched in.
Rebelowski also expressed her gratitude to Boston’s Pizza, The Coffee Oasis, and Kitsap Events who discounted food, coffee, and tent rental.
“I was most inspired by my friend, Georgia, who has late-stage breast cancer and was out there on her hands and knees weeding for hours,” Rebelowski added.