Your kid could write a good history paper on George Anson Meigs – island pioneer, lumber baron, shipbuilder and founder of Port Madison back when we were still the Washington Territory.
Along the way, he found time to establish a dairy farm in the middle of the island, supplying the Port Madison mill town at low cost to keep the workers happy and the big saws whirling – a savvy businessman, indeed. Meigs didn’t live to see the 20th century, but the dairy made it into the 1950s.
To visit Meigs Park today is to encounter land still suffused with our cultural heritage, picture once rolling pasturelands and recall a time when agriculture and industry found common cause in the island’s very heart.
The park that bears Meigs’ name was created in 1992 when local entrepreneur and “undeveloper” Gale Cool reassembled about 90 acres of the old Meigs holdings, sold 67 acres to the Bainbridge Island Land Trust as open space and kept the rest to hang out on and restore. Cool sold to the City in 2007, and the parcels have since been unified under Park District stewardship.
From the parking wayside, an old dirt access road turned walking path runs parallel to the highway and skirts the park proper. Where cows milled and grazed, the land to the west is now thick with whatever has volunteered since the old farm days: stands of alder, cedars, the occasional maple or rogue cherry, random understory and fulsome blackberry patches that while not ecologically sound, are worth remembering next summer when you want to bake a cobbler.
A rusted metal gate marking the old park/farm boundary looks at first glance like industrial scrap, but viewed from the right angle makes a whimsical statement about the food chain.
Meigs Park speaks not just to the past, but to opportunity. Explore! Nothing is marked, but hunt around and you’ll find newly cleared footpaths (thank you, Summer Trails Crew) winding off into the middle of the land. A quiet pond, the ruins of old farm buildings and – if you can see it beyond the reeds – the island’s biggest wetland all lie ahead, deep enough that the highway noise starts to blur into a soothing white wash.
With general notions of more and longer trails, bird blinds and boardwalks over the bog, the Park District is looking at better (and yes, sensitive) public access. Consider: at 97 acres, the Meigs property is now bigger than Battle Point Park.
Mills and shipyards come and go, and even George Meigs eventually went bust. But once upon a time he saw possibility here, and you may too.