Plaza’s completion marks a new beginning at Brickworks

By Susan Key

While walking up Sunshine Alley, a family of four visiting Friday Harbor stopped to ask what was happening and ended up helping lay bricks for the Brickworks Plaza.

They were excited when they found out about some of the details of the project and wanted to take part in laying the groundwork for a town square. Tom Pence and John Stamey, both of whom donated substantial volunteer time, enjoyed relating this story.

Just in time for the very first Friday Harbor Art Market, the last brick was laid by local volunteer Nathan Wegemer. The light ochre bricks are surrounded by pea gravel and outline larger “pervious pavers,” which allow rainfall to filter into underlying gravel layers. This low impact development (LID) technique treats stormwater runoff, lessening the burden on the town’s stormwater system.

The Ag Guild partnered with the San Juan Islands Conservation District and the Brickworks design team to incorporate this “best management practice” into the project. As I walked around the neighborhood during the first of many more Friday Harbor Art Markets, the response from business owners was overwhelmingly positive.

“Absolutely fantastic... it’s really improved the character of the downtown core...” and “It’s sure to attract tourists” were just a few of the comments.

Completion of the Plaza was accomplished by a sizable volunteer effort coordinated by Peter Kilpatrick of Ravenhill Construction. Many other local businesses also donated expertise and materials (see Letter to the Editor, Aug. 24, pg. 6), and a large number of community members gave generously of their time.

Phase 1 of the Brickworks project, the plaza, was funded entirely by private donations from islanders, and thanks go to all of you who contributed dollars during these tough economic times. Though grants are few and far between, as well as highly competitive, the Ag Guild is pursuing every opportunity to bring in additional funding for Phases 2 and 3.

The community’s dream of a Brickworks town center is coming alive with the completion of the plaza. What a wonderful example of collaboration, commitment and passion merging in the creation of infrastructure that is available for markets, fairs, workshops, weddings, music, and gatherings —  all of which will add to the draw that is our wonderful downtown.

Landscaping is the next step. A grassy area forming the heart of the “green space,” which will double as a natural amphitheater centered on a stage. Picnic tables are in the works. All in all, the plaza will soon be an even more inviting haven for both visitors and locals who find themselves in the very center of Friday Harbor.

And remember, bathrooms are right across the alley.So stop by and check out your newest public space, and look for an announcement that the San Juan Farmers Market will be moving to its new location soon after Labor Day.

— Susan Key is the coordinator of Brickworks


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