History of Battle Point Park

Section I

C. History of Battle Point Park

In January, 1994 the Battle Point Astronomical Association was formed to provide a focus for amateur astronomers. It was declared a non-profit organization by the State of Washington. The need for working space was met through an agreement with the Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District for use of Battle Point Park facilities, namely the “Helix House”. This was a vacant reinforced building formerly housing the helical coil used to generate the very long carrier waves for around the world radio transmission during WW II.

The history of the park is now part of the Association’s heritage. Battle Point Park gets its name from early Indian battles which took place presumably on or near the beach just west of the present Park.

In 1941 a United States Naval Radio Transmitting Station to be located on Bainbridge Island was in the planning stages. On December 7 that year the U.S. Naval Radio Receiving Station at Fort Ward received the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Thus work was hurried on the Bainbridge Island station.

The radio station was carved from the forest and small farms on the high land between the smaller Manzanita Bay to the east and Port Orchard Bay to the west. An excellent artesian deep well (910′ deep) was drilled, and substantial structures were constructed including four 300′ steel towers and an 800′ guyed steel tower, transmitter building, barracks, mess hall, maintenance, Helix House, officers’ quarters, other minor structures, and a perimeter fence with lighting. The following aerial photograph shows the tower toward the left of the image (with the long shadow). The building near the base of the tower is the Helix House. West is up.

Battle Point Park Historical Photo 1

The naval base was operating from 1941 until deactivation on March 31, 1959. The equipment was removed in 1971.

The people assigned to the base played an important and perhaps crucial role during World War II, operating the prime communications link between the mainland U.S. and the Pacific. As many as 40 personnel were based at the station at a time, and many returned to Bainbridge Island to stay after leaving the service.

When the base was declared surplus property in 1971, many interested parties applied for ownership to the General Services Administration (GSA). However, under the strict rules of priority and need, only the Bainbridge Island Park District was able to qualify. On May 5, 1972, the property was turned over to the Park District under terms of an agreement which included the Park’s having to remove the five radio towers, and to follow a schedule of development which would turn the site into a facility for public recreational use.

The following aerial photo shows the Park after the tower was removed and various facilities were installed, including three ball fields at upper left, two soccer fields at upper center. The Helix House is the building in the circular area at left center. The left side of the image is the south end of the Park. The dark area at the right (north) is a pond.

Battle Point Park Historical Photo 2

Battle Point Park has several features making it an appropriate area for BPAA activities. The area is quite secure. All-night use, along with appropriate lighting, can be well controlled. The Helix House is solid, provides a good base for telescope mounting, and can be made very secure at little expense. The House and area have historic backgrounds, making them appropriate repositories for working archaeological astronomical systems. By its very nature, amateur astronomy is unobtrusive (it needs quiet and darkness), so people in the homes surrounding the Park should find it to be an excellent neighbor. BPAA expects that this astronomical facility will provide an excellent educational venture for the whole community.