Grooming Bremerton's Westpark Woods

Stephen Mikkelsen, a gas turbine systems mechanical technician at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, tugs at a vine hanging on a tree at the former Westpark site in Bremerton. - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
Stephen Mikkelsen, a gas turbine systems mechanical technician at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, tugs at a vine hanging on a tree at the former Westpark site in Bremerton.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

First she found a bird’s nest with two eggs under ivy and blackberry bushes. Later she uncovered a broken white antique chair and an abandoned child’s car seat.

“This is a regular scavenger hunt,” said Elaina Gonzales, a Kitsap Community Resources AmeriCorps member, who spent April 22 clearing ivy from the woods along Kitsap Way at the former Westpark site in Bremerton.

Gonzales and 60 other volunteers from AmeriCorps, the Navy and the Bremerton Housing Authority discovered other lost and discarded items, including a pink ball, syringe and numerous tires, but the group’s mission was removing the invasive vines from trees. The housing authority plans to establish the woods as park space for residents of the new Bay Vista development. The 82-acre, $300 million housing project, which replaces the now leveled Westpark, will be a mixed income, mixed-use community including housing, park space and commercial development.

The Preserve, as the open space will be called, will include hiking trails and be open to the public, said Kurt Wiest, executive director of the housing authority. There will also be other green space, including Periwinkle Park along Oyster Avenue and Sinclair Square in the northwest portion of the development. The Preserve, Periwinkle Park and Sinclair Square as well as smaller pockets of green space make up 15 acres, said Nancy Austin, director of real estate and contracts of the housing authority.

“We’re creating a new neighborhood in Bremerton and making it just like any neighborhood,” Wiest said, adding that when planning for Bay Vista, a high priority from the community was to have open green space.

Russ Donahue, director of Kitsap Community Resources’ Americorps program, said Monday that the group cleared away invasive ivy from about 250 trees. They removed the ivy six feet up from the base of each tree — enough space so that the ivy cannot survive and will die, he said.

“It needed it so badly. They had been there for a lot of years,” Donahue said about the overgrown ivy. Some of the ivy was so thick that they had to use chainsaws to cut it away, he added. The Americorps group did a similar ivy removal project about five years ago at Stephenson Canyon in East Bremerton.

Although the trees will have an easier time now that they aren’t being choked by the ivy, there were about 500 trees that the housing authority cut down with the money made from the selling of the timber — $60,000 — going back into the construction of the development.

“That is the going rate. We were getting the best price we could,” Wiest said. “No breaks there.”

Wiest acknowledged some residents’ concerns of logging the trees but said that with creating new roads and placing new utility equipment on the development, it was not possible to save every tree. Trees would be replanted at the new site, he added.

The grand opening of the first housing in Bay Vista, The Summit, is scheduled for May 17 with residents moving in at the beginning of June, Wiest said. As of last week, there were 12 units available out of the 83 at The Summit, Austin said.

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