Blueberry Park brings nature to Sylvan Way

Blueberry Park has a 75-plot community garden and people come to the park daily to care for their gardens. The park even has raised beds available for people who cannot work in ground-level ones. - Rachel Brant/staff photo
Blueberry Park has a 75-plot community garden and people come to the park daily to care for their gardens. The park even has raised beds available for people who cannot work in ground-level ones.
— image credit: Rachel Brant/staff photo

Armin Jahr Elementary School students now have a park right in their backyard.

“They can have a field trip to the park any day of the week,” Bremerton Parks Development Planner Colette Berna said.

Bremerton’s newest park is now complete and local officials will cut the ceremonial ribbon at 2 p.m. today at Blueberry Park in East Bremerton.

“I think it turned out fantastically,” Bremerton Parks and Recreation Director Wyn Birkenthal said.

Blueberry Neighborhood Park and Community Garden, located at 737 Sylvan Way, is the first park in Kitsap County constructed using low-impact development techniques, according to Birkenthal.

“It looks really promising for low-impact development from what I can tell,” he said. “The techniques used in the park need to be shared.”

The park includes a 75-plot community garden, ecoturf play meadow, playground, organic demonstration garden, picnic shelter, walking paths and restored wetlands.

The Bremerton Parks department built the environmentally friendly park using a variety of low-impact development methods thanks to one of its funding sources. The parks department got a $195,000 Department of Ecology grant specifically for low-impact development techniques.

“I think that grant took it to another five levels,” Birkenthal said.

Bremerton Parks also received a Land and Water Conservation grant for $201,000 and a Community Development Block Grant to construct Blueberry Park.

The Washington State University agricultural extension manages the community garden, which includes raised beds for people who cannot work in ground-level beds.

“Every time I’m here there’s at least one person (in the garden),” Berna said.

The green roof on Blueberry Park’s picnic shelter has low-growing, drought-tolerant plants on it that also provide food and shelter for birds and insects.

“When that roof greens up and fills out it’ll be really nice,” Birkenthal said.

Porous pavement was used to allow rainwater to seep through into the ground underneath. Pollutants in the water are filtered out and the clean water makes its way back to streams, wetlands and aquifers. Blueberry Park has three kinds of porous pavement including a porous asphalt parking lot, porous concrete sidewalk and a specially designed porous gravel path.

“Those are things we did because of the funding source,” Birkenthal said.

Rain gardens are installed along Blueberry Park’s street front and manage stormwater runoff from Sylvan Way. The gardens are shallow depressions in the ground with organically amended soils and plants that act like small wetlands collecting, absorbing and filtering stormwater runoff.

“(This park) is more sensitive to the environment,” Birkenthal said.

He said city employees began constructing the park October 2008 and kept working through bad weather, including rain and snow, to make the park a reality.

“They kept their spirit and did a remarkable job,” he said. “They made it happen.”

The land used to be Tanglewood Blueberry Farm, owned and operated by Henry and Frances White, and, at its peak, had more than 2,400 blueberry bushes of 28 varieties. Local children picked, sorted and packed blueberries to be sold across the Puget Sound region.

The Whites sold the 7-acre farm to the city of Bremerton in 1979 for use as a park and the city received the funding to begin construction in 2007.

The city kept some of the original Tanglewood blueberry bushes in a section of the park.

Birkenthal said once the newly planted trees and shrubbery grow a little more, people will feel at ease inside the park’s green confines.

“You’ll feel enveloped in the park and I think that’s kind of a comforting feeling,” he said.

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