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A Trail Work Party With Powerful History

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Jan 16, 2019 11:58 AM |

This winter, WTA volunteers helped rejuvenate Japanese American Exclusion Memorial on Bainbridge Island.

In November, 47 WTA volunteers convened for our first ever work party at the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. The memorial — part of the Minidoka Historic Site and supported by the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park — is an outdoor exhibit commemorating the forced internment of Japanese Americans from Bainbridge Island during World War II. Due to the island’s proximity to naval bases, local Japanese Americans were the first in the country to be interned during WWII. With only 6 days’ notice, on March 30, 1942, 227 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed by ferry at this site’s exact location.

Clarence Moriwaki (center), president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community, welcomes the crew and gives a brief history of the site before a work party with WTA. Photo by Kay Sadowitz. 

Clarence Moriwaki, president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community and a founder and former president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association, began the day of the work party with a beautiful introduction to the site. He offered a reminder of how we can all do better to prevent injustices — like what happened at this location — from happening in the future.

While the history of this location is rich and somber, the work of our volunteers honored past experiences and brought smiles to participants’ faces.

Our crew planted an assortment of native plant species including salal, Oregon grape, wax myrtle, arbutus and sword fern. A handful of cedar trees were also planted to replace dying trees or to provide critical boundaries to sections of the park where users have been traveling off trail. Eighty feet of blackberry was also removed to open up sections of the site that had become overgrown.

Photo by Kay Sadowitz.

Thirty-nine volunteer green hats showed up for this day. Only two had ever been to an event with WTA before, and about half of those present were from the Bainbridge Island community.

This project was made possible by a generous grant from the National Park Fund and through the collective efforts of our partners at Northwest Youth Corps, the National Park Service, National Parks Conservation Association, Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation, and Greater Seattle YMCA Camping and Outdoor Leadership Branch. A significant discount for the plants and materials was provided by Bainbridge Gardens.