Historic Bainbridge Island (WA) Site to be Protected

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today that it will work with the city of Bainbridge Island to permanently protect a piece of historic property on Bainbridge Island where hundreds of Japanese-Americans were shipped to internment camps.

On March 30, 1942, during the early days of World War II, 227 men, women and children of Japanese descent were gathered at Eagledale ferry dock on Bainbridge Island and loaded onto a ferry for relocation to the Manzanar internment camp in California.

These 227 people were the first of more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans on the west coast to be interned during the war, under Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt. It was one of the saddest days in the history of the island, as residents remembered that some of the U.S. soldiers had tears in their eyes as they escorted their neighbors off the island.

The site of the old Eagledale Ferry dock is part of a larger 50-acre property along the southern side of Eagle Harbor. Although a portion of the site is contaminated and undergoing environmental clean-up, the majority of the site, including the location of the planned memorial, is free of contaminants and could be sold for development.

TPL, the City, and various local groups and organizations plan to work together over the next two years to secure public and private funding for the purchase. The portion of the property not required for the memorial would become a new city park named in honor of the late Joel Pritchard, who had ties to the Island and represented the Island in Congress for 12 years before becoming Lieutenant Governor. While in Congress, Joel Pritchard championed several key environmental causes, including the federal Superfund program, which made possible the ongoing clean-up and restoration of this once contaminated site.

Thanks to the efforts of the Washington congressional delegation, Congress has authorized the National Park Service to determine if the site qualifies for National Memorial status.

“The Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Memorial Study Act was recently signed into law by the U.S. Congress and the President, and it is timely legislation indeed”, said Congressman Jay Inslee (WA-1). “By remembering our history we honor those who sacrificed for our country in past wars, and learn not to repeat the same egregious mistakes in present times.”

“Our national parks and monuments protect areas of unique value in America. I’m proud of the steps that the Bainbridge community, TPL, and our state delegation are taking to help Washingtonians recognize and protect a part of our history that we must not forget,” Senator Patty Murray said. “We can’t undo the injustice suffered by Japanese-Americans during World War II, but we can give them the recognition they deserve and an eternal reminder to all that this should never happen again.”

Senator Maria Cantwell said, “This is a terrific opportunity to recognize the distinguished career of Joel Pritchard, to provide a lasting memorial to the Japanese-American community and create a public park for the citizens of the Bainbridge Island and the Puget Sound region. “

The Trust for Public Land has secured an option to purchase the property for the appraised value of $8 million. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is in charge of the clean-up, approved the transaction, thus allowing the project to go forward. The Bainbridge Island City Council will be considering an agreement next week that would allow the property eventually to be transferred into City ownership for management, if acquisition funding is secured.

The effort to acquire the entire site for use as a park and a memorial has been endorsed by a variety of local groups, including the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, the Association of Bainbridge Communities, the Washington Water Trails Association, Kitsap County Chapter of the Audubon Society, the People for Puget Sound, and the Suquamish Indian Tribe.

TPL project manager Kent Whitehead said, “This project is a very exciting opportunity for The Trust for Public Land to accomplish several important conservation goals at once. We look forward the our partnership with the City of Bainbridge Island, the Japanese-American community, the Bainbridge Island Land Trust and other local groups and leaders on what we expect to be a wonderful success story for our region.”

Darlene Kordonowy, Mayor of Bainbridge Island, said, “the 50-acre site represents a number of chapters of our island-city’s history, none more significant then the internment of island citizens and residents during World War II. With help from Congressman Jay Inslee, and other members of Washington’s delegation, and organizations such as the TPL and the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, the property will be purchased and this story told.”

Clarence Moriwaki, who is working with the Japanese-American community on the memorial effort said, “By creating a national a memorial to honor the first Japanese Americans – two thirds of them American citizens – who were unjustly removed from their homes during World War II, the Eagledale Ferry Landing on Bainbridge Island will cast an eternal light of healing and understanding on this dark period in our nation’s history.”

Project proponents hope to garner at least $6 million from federal, state, and local grants for the purchase. The City has already dedicated $500,000 from its capital funds to the project. In addition, the state and the county may furnish some funding as well. The remaining $2 million for the purchase price as well as much of the funding for site development would be fundraised from private individuals. A local committee is being formed that will spearhead the fundraising campaign.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law, to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Across the nation, TPL has helped protect more than 1.4 million acres. TPL depends on the generosity of individuals, foundations, and corporations. In Washington State, TPL has contributed to the protection of more than 46,000 acres, with a total value of more than $208 million.