Visit the Parade Grounds at Fort Ward and you’re not likely to see a marching band, clowns performing in costume or even uniformed military. The park’s name instead refers to the location where troops—during Fort Ward’s operation as a military base—assembled for drilling formation in preparation for battle. Now a grassy neighborhood commons, the park is host to families, kids and pets enjoying the open space.
Rich in history, Fort Ward originated as a Puget Sound Army base defending Bremerton’s Naval Shipyard and Rich Passage, with construction of its gun batteries beginning in 1899.
Named after Colonel George H. Ward, the base on the southern tip of Bainbridge was turned over to the Navy and became a secret radio listening post during World War II, code-named Station S.
Fort Ward was outfitted with barracks, a post exchange and gym, administration building, guardhouse, baseball diamond (Fort Ward had its own baseball team), and a firehouse with an electric power plant. Some of the red brick buildings still stand today.
Dedicated in 2002, the 1.5-acre Parade Grounds Park is managed by the BI Parks & Recreation District and is open to the public. It includes nature trails that wind past some of its tucked away structures.
Friends of Fort Ward, a volunteer organization, is integral in the park’s historical preservation. The group also promotes neighborhood activities through educational outreach to local schools and the community.