CHIMACUM — When he was a student at Port Townsend High School, Jess Norton used to ride his motorbike from his home on Eaglemount Road down to the Anderson gravel pit on Rhody Drive.
The mining operation, which provided gravel for country roads, had just ended, making the pit made the perfect place to ride.
“There was still machinery here,” he recalled.
Norton now walks his 4 ½-year-old son, Fenix, to the same place for recreation.
But instead of a gravel pit, the two find acres of emerald green fields, groves of trees sheltering playground and picnic tables, and wooded trails leading to the creek.
“We live just up the road,” Norton said, as he and Fenix got ready to fly a kite on Saturday.
Jess and Fenix live near H.J. Carroll Park, a reclaimed gravel pit that was designated for a park in 1998.
Known as a “community-built park,” the property was transformed over the next decade by local efforts — residents who literally shaped the pit into a park.
“I got to drive the bulldozer,” said Marjorie Rogers, a Port Hadlock resident.
Rogers, a retired professor, served on the park’s original advisory committee, and was also civic improvement chairman for the Tri-Area Garden Club.
In 1998, garden club members drew up a planting plan for the park, featuring large berms that would be planted with trees and shrubs to provide shade and color.
“The Picnic Grove was our first project,” Rogers said, referring to a stand of trees that shelter picnic tables, which were built by Chimacum High School shop students.
Rogers recalled being at the park one day, deciding where the next berm would go, when she got a call from Dick Broders, owner of Paradise Bay Construction.
Broders, also on the park advisory committee, was laying out a project and kept turning up granite boulders.
Two at a time
Asking Rogers if she wanted them for the park, which she did, Broders took her to the site to pick out the ones she wanted, lifted them on a flatbed trailer with a crane and hauled them to the park two at a time.
“Then he asked, “Where do you want them?” Rogers recalled.
Rogers can still point out the trees that she and Bill Irvin, another committee member, salvaged from an abandoned Christmas tree farm in Beaver Valley, digging them up and driving down Rhody Drive to the park with the tree limbs waving in the back of Irvin’s truck.
Irvin also took her to wholesale nurseries and ask what she wanted.
“He’d get six of this, six of that,” Rogers said.
Rogers also went door to door in the area, asking for donations.
Holding work parties, the garden club members also created the heather garden, and with the help of donated equipment from Puget Sound Power, created and planted berms of a variety of shapes and sizes throughout the south and east side of the park.
One of the largest is the crescent-shape berm that curves around the large pavilion, separating it from the parking area.
Used for weddings, class reunions and family gatherings, the pavilion was erected by member of the East Jefferson Rotary Club, who got out their hammers and saws when commercial bids on the project exceeded park department estimates.
The smaller pavilion in the park was built by members of Wild Olympic Salmon, led by Tom Jay.
It is bordered by the Native Plant Garden, designed and installed by Linda Landkammer, who maintains it with a crew of volunteers.
From the pavilion, a stair-step trail originally built by local Boy Scouts leads down to Chimacum Creek.
“Bill Perkins, a member of the LDS church, and some volunteers rebuilt that trail this spring,” Hilt said, referring to the park’s neighbor, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On the northwest side of the park, to the left of the entry drive, are a BMX track, a walking maze and basketball courts, all built by volunteers.
The ball field and soccer fields in the center of the park were funded with a donation from H.J. Carroll. His sister, Betty Anderson, donated funds for the adjacent flagpole, picnic tables and landscaping.
Although he wasn’t athletic, Carroll, who lived in Port Townsend, designated that his donation be used for sports facilities in the county, Rogers said.
“He was very interested in providing sports facilities for children,” Rogers said.
Without volunteer labor and donations, the park wouldn’t be what it is today, Hilt said.
She now maintains the grounds and has added additional plantings, including the one in the center of the circular drive.
In 2000, the Tri-Area Garden Club won the Exxon Civic Development Award from the National Council of State Garden Clubs for the park project.
Its members still come and weed the berms, Rogers said.
Last spring, a group of second- and third-graders from Chimacum School came and weeded the steps down to the creek, Hilt said, joining the ranks of the hundreds of people who have loaned a hand since the park began.
“It truly is a community project,” Hilt said.
________Port Townsend/Jefferson County reporter-columnist Jennifer Jackson can be reached at email@example.com.