Erosion threatens barracks at Bainbridge’s Fort Ward Park

Fort WardBAINBRIDGE ISLAND — A historical military barracks at Fort Ward Park is under assault this winter. Built during World War II as part of a naval radio station, the barracks now faces a new invader: Puget Sound. Waves and freakishly high “king tides” tore away at the shoreline near the building last month, raising concern it could soon be destabilized. Last summer the northwest corner of the barracks was about 14 feet from Rich Passage. “It’s probably down to 9, 10 or 11 feet now,” Bainbridge park district Executive Director Terry Lande said. “The king tides in December wreaked havoc.”

The shoreline’s sudden march inland is forcing the district into action. At its regular meeting Thursday the park board gave Lande approval to begin researching options for saving the vacant building, and gathering public input on how it might be used. That process will be carried out over the next few months, Lande said.

The barracks has stood on the south island waterfront for 70 years. Park board member Tom Swolgaard said historical significance of the barracks is clear. “Other than the gun emplacements, that’s all that’s left from the fort in the park,” Swolgaard said Thursday. “Everything else is gone.” But whether the barracks can and should be saved is a question the district and other agencies will consider in coming months.

Lande said armoring the shoreline to prevent further erosion would be challenging and “cost a small fortune.” Moving the building wouldn’t be cheap either. A moving company recently told park district officials it would cost up to $100,000 to relocate the barracks any significant distance. “It has serious historic significance to the park and the island,” Lande said. “But it has some significant challenges.”

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