Groundbreaking ceremony marks start of new park

The South Kitsap Rotary Club and the city of Port Orchard will host a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday to kick off construction of Etta Turner Park, named for 16-year-old South Kitsap High School student Etta Turner, who died in Bolivia in November of 2002 while participating in the Rotary International Exchange Program.

The ceremony will begin at 4:30 p.m. at the park site on Bay Street, across Blackjack Creek from Bay Ford in downtown Port Orchard. Once completed, the park will stretch from Bay Street to Sinclair Inlet on the shore of Blackjack Creek near Westbay Center.

The park is a joint venture between the Rotary and the city of Port Orchard and will include a boardwalk, park benches, picnic tables and a lighthouse gazebo.

“The property is the city’s property and we will be providing the water service to the park and maintaining it along with the Rotary in the future,” said Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel. “The Rotary is donating their assets to the City.”

According to Abel, the park fit nicely into the city’s plan to create more access to downtown waterways.

“The city’s had the desire for a long time to make a walkable path along the water all through downtown,” Abel said.

“We’ve been working on this for a little over a year,” said Rotary President-Elect Greg Rogers, who also works as a fire prevention technician at Fire District 7.

Rogers said he expects a big turnout at Tuesday evening’s groundbreak.

“We’re expecting anywhere from 200 to 275 people,” Rogers said. “We sent out 300 personal invitations.”

Rogers said the park has been funded entirely by community donations and the Rotary has a lot of people to thank.

“We originally thought the park would cost around $50,000,” Rogers said. “But we estimated that by the time we finished it would have ended up costing $87,000.”

The Rotary raised $25,000 selling bricks with customized inscriptions for $100. A $500 donation purchases a gold brick. At Tuesday’s ceremony, bricks will still be available, at least six items will be auctioned off and those who donate $2,500 or more will get their names put on a plaque that will remain in the park.

Rogers said that in addition to the brick and major donations, some of the construction work has also been donated.

“With all the donations we’ve received, it’s going to be closer to the original $50,000,” Rogers said. “Without the donations I don’t think we would have been able to pull this off.”

Rogers said the Rotary is excited for Tuesday, but eager to begin its centennial project.

“I think we’re more excited about getting the project started,” Rogers said. “We were partners with the Port Orchard Morning Rotary Club in sponsoring Etta on her exchange. She kind of had a place in our club that the members who were present at that time are aware of.”

Etta Turner died in a bus accident in November of 2002 while living in Montero, Bolivia as a Rotary International Exchange Student. While traveling through the mountains to the city of Tapiza, the bus she had been traveling on for three days veered off the road.

Six of the 21 passengers were killed.

Etta Turner Park will be a memorial celebrating Etta’s life and drawing attention to rotary opportunities overseas.

“That’s kind of the picture we want to show people,” Rogers said. “The park tells people Etta’s story and at the same time its gives our Rotary Club the ability to share what we’re doing in the community and above and beyond the community.”

Speakers at the ceremony include members of the South Kitsap Rotary, Washington State Sen. Bob Oke and Kitsap County Commissioner Jan Angel, as well as Abel.

Commissioners Chris Endresen and Patty Lent may also attend.

“This is kind of our grand finale to show those who have supported us and the project our appreciation and let them be a part of it,” Rogers said. “We would love to have anybody and everybody come down.”

Rogers said Tuesday’s ceremony is the last opportunity to make donations to help fund the park. For more information on donations call (360) 895-2075.

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