Parks department, Kiwanis Club team up to overhaul local park

Wyn Birkenthal never saw Kiwanis Park as particularly welcoming.

“There’s a chain-link fence around it like it’s trying to keep in prisoners,” he said.

But the Bremerton’s Parks and Recreation director saw potential in the four-acre plot on Fifth Street.

“It’s just the right size for a park, it has just never been developed,” Birkenthal said. “The park is in terrible shape.”

The federal Land and Conservation Fund — through the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board — recently provided a $400,000 grant to Bremerton Parks and Recreation to overhaul the park. Construction and completion of the project are set for 2011, after the department finishes its renovation of Lions Parks, which has received $1.6 million in grants during the past two years.

Bremerton Parks and Recreation first attempted to gain funding for Kiwanis Park in the failed 2006 park levy, which would have provided the city $36 million over six years for improvements to eight local parks.

The park was originally home to the first school in Bremerton, Union High School. The school was replaced by Contz Junior High, which was destroyed by a fire in 1973.

It was renamed Kiwanis Park after receiving a $5,000 donation from the Bremerton branch of The Kiwanis Club, an international service organization, to help clean up the park after the school’s destruction. However, the club had done little to support the park since, a fact that didn’t go unnoticed to former club president Carol Sue Rogers, who was looking for a new project in 2007.

“I realized that the club hadn’t done anything there since the 1970s,” she said.

Bremerton Parks and Recreation and the Kiwanis Club teamed up to host two workday parties, with the help of volunteers from the Washington Youth Academy and the Bremerton Key Club.

The first thing to go was 70 feet of the chain-link fence, which was replaced by a shiny wooden fence. The first seeds of new trees lined around the park also were planted.

The club also provided donations to help the department receive a $40,000 Community Development Block Grant, as well as the larger, most recent grant.

“It was kind of a no-brainer,” Rogers said. “We want to see improvement for that park and the community.

Birkenthal said the department will eliminate the baseball field and playground in the upper portion of the park, as well as add bleachers around the heavily used soccer field.

An expanded playground and new picnic area will be added to the lower portion, as well as improved drainage to the baseball area.

“The field was almost completely unusable except in late spring and summer,” he said.

New restrooms and improved landscaping also are in the cards, Birkenthal said, as well as the creation of a walking trail around the park’s perimeter and the completion of the wooden fence.

“It’s a low-income area where the park would get a lot of use and do a lot of good,” he said. “We want it to be an attraction, the centerpiece of the neighborhood.”

The Washington State Recreation and Funding Board also provided a $50,000 grant to the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.

The funding will be directed primarily to digging a well so the club can provide full restroom services, said Marcus Carter, the club’s executive officer.

The system will replace the club’s current portable restroom system.

“In general, it’s not a pleasant way to go about your business.” Carter said.

The rest of the funding will go toward improving lighting around the club’s parking lot and a recently installed ramp for people with disabilities.

“We are very grateful,” Carter said. “It’s a great facility.”

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