Park, sewer districts formalize Fort Ward Community Hall partnership

The Fort Ward Community Hall project is now officially a local park plan.

The Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District and Kitsap County (Fort Ward) Sewer District No. 7 have formalized their agreement for development of a public hall in the historic bakery building at Fort Ward.

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Under the agreement, the hall will be managed and programmed by the Park District under a long-term lease. The Park District will act as general contractor on the project, and contribute staff labor toward the building’s renovation.

The sewer district, which purchased the building in 2007, will maintain ownership as a capital asset and hold an office in one corner of the 1,900-square-foot hall.

The park and sewer boards codified the partnership with formal action in late July after a longstanding agreement in principle.

Terry Lande, Park District executive director, hailed the agreement between the two local municipal agencies.

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“Bringing an indoor park space to the south end of the island is long overdue,” Lande said. “The Fort Ward Community Hall will be a great asset for a corner of the island currently underserved by such facilities. This project really advances both the Park District and the City’s Comprehensive Plans for expanding park services to island residents.”

Chris Dew, Fort Ward sewer district board president, said the interlocal agreement serves both districts’ constituents and the island as a whole.

“The sewer district purchased the bakery building with exactly this broad public benefit in mind,” Dew said. “We’re very pleased to see it taking shape, and proud to partner with the Park District to see it through.”

The building renovation is expected to be completed by the end of 2017, contingent on continued successful fundraising.

The Park District, project manager OTWB Inc. of Bainbridge Island, and the Friends of Fort Ward neighborhood group are now finalizing the construction schedule.

Friends of Fort Ward, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is currently soliciting tax-deductible contributions to meet a $60,000 challenge grant match offered by Bainbridge Rotary. The group hopes to have that leg of the larger fund drive completed by Labor Day, with donor outreach ongoing.

The building was originally constructed in 1910 as a bakery serving the U.S. Coast Artillery Corps garrison at Fort Ward. It was repurposed as a power station for top-secret Naval radio operations during World War II, a chapter detailed in David Kahn’s authoritative work “The Codebreakers.”

The restored building will offer a meeting hall and kitchen for community groups and private functions. Park programming will include classes, clubs, scout troops and other family-oriented activities typical of events at Seabold and Island Center halls and Camp Yeomalt.

The renovation is being financed by private contributions and state and local historic preservation grants.

The project has earned grants from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, the Bainbridge Community Foundation, the Suquamish Foundation, the Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation, and donor-advised contributions from the Seattle and Kitsap Community foundations. Leading island businesses including Town & Country Markets, Inc., and Bainbridge Island ACE Hardware have also contributed.

Prospective donors can schedule a tour of the bakery building by emailing fortwardhall@gmail.com.