BREMERTON (Kitsap Sun) — Smith Cove, a small inlet surrounded by Evergreen-Rotary Park, was known on early city maps as a bay — until industrial development squeezed its waters and choked its soils.
But if city officials are successful in obtaining a $2 million grant, it might become a bay again.
Plans are now complete for a project to rip away roughly 10,000 tons of artificial coastline — including crumbling concrete, decaying pilings and other contaminated materials — to resuscitate a natural beach buried for more than a century.
Chance W. Berthiaume, the city's stormwater permit coordinator, said the aim would be to make the patch of shoreline both "fish friendly" and "human friendly."
"We will have a very easy-to-access beach area with nice sandy gravels (that) can support spawning of feeder fish," Berthiaume said. "We'll let nature take its course."
The city won a $200,000 grant from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board to design the project. Officials are targeting other grants to complete the project.
It would mark the culmination of a long-running cleanup for the site. For decades, it served as the port of arrival for fuel oils used to heat area homes, as well as other uses. A small fuel company began operation there in 1909 and became a full-fledged tank farm in 1946, according to Sun archives.
"Long before bridges, we had to barge everything in," Berthiaume said.
When the Chevron Corporation removed tanks and structures from the site in 1988, major fuel spills occurred. An initial cleanup effort began in 1998.
More remediation occurred after the city bought the property in 2005 for $100, including removing hazardous soil. The city continues to monitor groundwater there today.
Much industrial debris remains, including chunks of concrete from an outdoor pool that operated there between the 1950s and 1980s.
If the city proceeds with the project, a popular "face" sculpture would be cut out and saved, Berthiaume said. The sculpture was completed by former Bremerton resident Robert “Bob” Larkin Chollar in a dumped load of asphalt on a whim in 1969.
"You can't get rid of it," Berthiaume said. "It's an icon here."
The city will be applying for several grants in the months ahead to bring the project to fruition.
"Getting rid of this contaminated area ... is going to be the crown on the jewel (for the park)," Berthiaume said.