History: Part 3

The City of Bainbridge Island

Beginning in 1963, movement toward all-island incorporation commenced steady growth. In 1969, a bid for incorporation of the area outside of Winslow failed at the polls. Another effort in the early 80’s did not reach the polls, but in 1988, a citizen’s Home Rule organization became active, culminating is a 1990 vote.

oldhouseThe original effort to incorporate separately from Winslow was revised when the City of Winslow reversed its position and favored annexation of the remainder of the island into the City of Winslow. By a very small margin, (a vote so close that recount was needed) islanders voted in favor of annexation. In 1991, residents voted to change the city’s name to the “City of Bainbridge Island”.

Bainbridge Island was created during the last ice age as a massive glacier carved out Puget Sound during its advance, a heritage confirmed by the soil structure of glacial till with its underlying layer of hardpan. The island is approximately four miles wide and 12 miles long, with an irregular coastline and many small bays.

The highest point on the island, Toe Jam Hill, is 420 feet above sea level. Gazzam Lake in the Southwest part of the island is the largest body of water. There are also many springs and small streams. Most of the public and private water systems, however, rely on subterranean groundwater. Many feel that water availability will be a determining factor in island growth.

Although the climate is generally mild, several severe storms have impacted the island. Many remember the Columbus Day 1962 windstorm, which damaged trees and homes. The February 1979 storm sank half of the nearby Hood Canal Bridge (hatches in the flotation were left open), but left the Agate Passage Bridge intact. On Thanksgiving Day, 1983, another violent storm left travelers stranded and holiday meals uncooked. In December, 1990, freezing snow and high Northerly winds toppled hundreds of giant trees, damaged many island homes, left roads impassable, and some parts of the island without power for nearly two weeks.

Prior to the arrival of the white man, the island was covered by a dense, mature cedar forest. By the early years of the 20th Century, almost all of the timber had been cut. Today, there is a great deal of second-growth timber. The few tracts of timber remaining in the ownership of commercial forestry companies are likely to be converted to other uses in the near future. In 1991, voters approved a bond issue to purchase 240 forested acres in the center of the island from the Department of Natural Resources.

The Bainbridge Island Park District is also the owner and custodian of several other natural areas which are used as parks. Near Agate Pass, the 150 acre Bloedel estate is now a nature preserve open to the public on a limited basis. Many large trees and areas of natural vegetation have been preserved in residential areas. The Bainbridge Island Land Trust and other groups are actively assisting in these preservation efforts.

Agriculture has been an important part of life on Bainbridge Island. Dotted throughout the island are a number of small farms. For many years, Bainbridge was famous for its strawberries. These continue to be raised commercially, although in diminishing quantities. High quality wines are produced on Bainbridge Island from grapes and berries grown here. Salmon are raised commercially in large aquaculture operation in the Fort Ward area.

A weekly Farmer’s Market offers homegrown fruits, vegetables, flowers and craft items from local growers. The Bainbridge Island Grange and Rural Bainbridge Inc. are actively promoting preservation of island farm lands and activities.