They wanted ball fields, playgrounds and a swimming pool, and just like they would today, the islanders came together to make that happen. In the spring of 1965, a special election was held and the Bainbridge Island Park & Recreation District was born. The effort was organized by the Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island along with support from numerous other groups, and in 1966 the first public park, Rotary Park, was donated by the Rotary Club.
The Rotary Club continued its advocacy through financial support, assisting to acquire what is now Strawberry Hill Park and Eagledale Park, which were surplus sites of the federal government. Island Center Hall was donated in 1971, and in 1972, Battle Point Park—another federal government surplus site—was acquired. In the Park District’s infancy, it concentrated on purchasing and developing the properties, however their goal of a public swimming pool and development of other recreational programs was always at the forefront, and in 1971, the Ray Williamson Pool opened.
Throughout the years, various volunteers, non-profit groups, private organizations, the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, as well as local, county, state and federal entities have joined the efforts of the Park District to expand and maintain our beautiful public spaces. In addition to providing protected open spaces, the Park District provides recreational and cultural programs for Islanders of all ages, including senior citizens and persons with disabilities. In 2004, the Park District was restructured to form the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District (BIMPRD).
Today, Bainbridge Island has 59 parks and trails which offer a variety of venues, such as tot lots, playgrounds, athletic fields and courts—including the recent addition of the Founders Pickleball Court at Battle Point Park—open spaces, picnic areas (some with shelters), waterfront and water-view, camping facilities, and nature preserves. Our trails range from deeply forested, beach front, wetlands, upland forests, and equestrian, varying from meandering easy-going trails, to steep and more challenging (click here BIParks.org parks and trails finder).
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Benishek, Recreation Division Director of the BIMPRD about their accomplishments over the last year, as well as their plans going forward.
One of the most anticipated projects was the Founders Court pickleball center at Battle Point Park. As many people know, pickleball was born on Bainbridge Island (click here if you’d like to learn more about it), and although there are many privately owned courts, we didn’t have a public court, instead sharing public tennis court spaces. Through a partnership with BIMPRD, the Bainbridge Island Parks foundation and the pickleball community, ground breaking for the new Founders Court happened in October of 2019. Throughout the course of 2020, and with the help of many volunteers, BIMPRD completed the new courts, which opened for play on August 19, 2020.
In addition to the Founders Courts, BIMPRD began work on the KidsUp! Playground at Battle Point Park, which will include a 47-foot-long steel ferry boat and life size Orca, as well as new walkways and refurbished play fixtures. Completion is expected this summer.
Considering the enormity of the Battle Point Park projects, one would think BIMPRD had its hands full, and they did, but that didn’t stop them from working on other open space projects. At Sakai Park, they’ve laid the foundation for the trails (the top finish is forthcoming) and are working on connecting the many switchbacks, trails and boardwalks to the Sound to Olympics Trail at High School Road and SR305. They’ve also expanded by acquiring sole ownership of Pritchard Park, which was co-owned with the City of Bainbridge Island. In addition, they were able to add two new parcels to Ted Olson Park, as well as acquiring sole ownership of Manitou Beach Park. Many other smaller projects are in the works as well.
Following Washington State Covid-19 guidelines, BIMPRD has been able to keep the outdoor facilities, such as picnic shelters, camping, cabin and RV sites open to visitors (click here for availability and reservations). Indoor facilities are not open at this time; however, Mark was excited to share that the outdoor movies in the park will commence in August (at this time they will be drive-in events), click here for free registration. The Sounds of Summer Concert Series is still a “maybe” for this year, however should State guidelines allow, it will run from August 4th through September 15th.
Mark also emphasized that BIMPRD offers a variety of programs ranging from youth and adult sports and fitness, All-Day Explorer Camp, arts & culture (such as painting, drawing, ceramics, music, dance, and much more), aquatics, youth and teen programs, active adult programs, gymnastics and an Outdoor Program designed to get people of all ages and abilities outside. For a full list of all the recreation opportunities and registration, click here. The Recreation Division has also grown from one department to seven departments and now offers over 3,700 recreational programs each year to the Bainbridge Island community.
*Summer Recreation registration open on Wednesday, May 5th at 9:30am – click here for the registration page.
During the lockdown, BIMPRD offered several online virtual programs, which they’ll continue to offer going forward, click here to learn more.
*Images and logo provided by and used with permission from BIMPRD