Moritani Preserve: a Cool Oasis on the Edge of Downtown Winslow
As our short Pacific Northwest summer flies by, with stretches of hot, hot weather, mixed with our celebrated marine layer and cooler days, islanders are always seeking out restive places to get away from the daily grind or the post-Covid-19 hustle and bustle.
One nice, local sanctuary is the Moritani Preserve. Situated just west of Downtown Winslow and located between Winslow Way and Shepard Way. This nine-acre passive park is a great place to commune with nature, walk your dog on several designated paths, have a picnic with friends or family, or just hang out on one of several beautifully designed wooden benches.
The Preserve, now filled with firs, maples, dogwoods, a few fruit trees and any number of native and non-native shrubs and grasses, was once a strawberry farm owned and operated by the Moritani family – a longtime island family of Japanese descent.
At one time, strawberries from those fields and perhaps other areas on the island were processed at a plant that was just west of the Leslie Landing neighborhood. The old strawberry plant burned down in a spectacular blaze in 1997 and the land on which it once stood is now a small waterfront park on Eagle Harbor.
The Moritani’s – as the story goes – gave up on growing strawberries some 30 or 40 years ago and decided to turn their land into a Christmas tree farm. There are indeed sections of today’s Preserve that have rows of tall fir trees. Other species apparently grew up wildly all around them.
While the Moritani’s tree-growing venture never really flourished, some of the family stayed on the property until the last of three brothers passed away around 2018. That’s when the Fletcher Bay Foundation generously purchased the property and converted it into the Moritani Preserve.
Today, the property is managed by the Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation in cooperation with the Friends of Moritani, with advice and guidance from a separate citizen’s advisory committee that works on shaping and maintaining the property in its natural state.
One of the Friends’ current projects – in addition to thinning overgrown trees and brush and pulling out invasive species – is the planting of a pollinator garden on a 15-foot by 60-foot plot in the Preserve adjacent to a well-established path.
“We wanted to put it in a place along a trail where more people could enjoy it,” says committee chair and landscape architect Maryann Kirkby. “I view this as a test case or model for what can happen in the Preserve. We might do pollinator shrubs or perennials in the future.”
Kirkby, who worked with Applied Ecology to develop the look and feel of the Preserve along with assisting with its original management plan, says pollinator gardens or circles “are key to everything. They attract beneficial insects (and) birds love the leftover seeds.”
She says some 28 species of varying types of flowers have been planted in the small plot. Some seeds “might not bloom in the first year, (while) over time, some will disappear and others will become more dominant,” Kirkby adds, noting that the garden is sprouting slowly, possibly affected by the scorching heat of late June.
Kirkby says the Preserve “is such a wonderful gift” to Bainbridge Islanders.… “It’s such a unique park combining open space and history. Plus, it’s located in Downtown Winslow.… It’s a very fortunate happening.”
If you are interested in volunteering with the Friends of Moritani, please contact Morgan Houk at email@example.com.
*Images provided by Friends of Moritani