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00000181-fa79-da89-a38d-fb7f2bdc0000Seattle is the fastest-growing city in the country. That’s pushing housing costs higher. And it’s snarling traffic faster than we can build light rail.But just an hour across the water, there’s the town of Bremerton. It grew up around the Navy base there, and has long been a haven for artists and others drawn by low rents.Now it wants in on Seattle’s action. It’s hoping the new fast ferry, which starts running in July and will cut commute time in half, will make Bremerton appealing to Seattleites looking to escape.We look at the stakes for the little city across the water that wants to be big and prosperous, and what people fear they’ll lose when the new residents arrive.

Missed the ferry? Three ways to spend an hour in Bremerton

Display at the Valentinetti Puppet Museum in downtown Bremerton, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
Display at the Valentinetti Puppet Museum in downtown Bremerton, Washington.

Starting Monday it will only take half an hour to reach Bremerton if you take Kitsap Transit’s fast ferry. It runs from the King County dock just south of Colman dock – the one used by the water taxis – to a dock close to WSDOT’s car ferry terminal in Bremerton.

Until today, a car trip from downtown Seattle to Snohomish County took less time than a ferry trip to Bremerton. Now, the opposite is true. 

That could be meaningful for people who are struggling to find a home in our high-priced, far-flung and frequently gridlocked region.

Now come the caveats and asterisks: capacity on the Bremerton fast ferry is much less than on the state car ferry. Passengers can reserve places on the fast ferry, but there’s likely to be more demand than supply for the immediate future.

Kitsap Transit does have a plan to lay on more sailings, but that depends on adding an extra vessel. That could take a long time. 

KUOW's Region of Boom team has been embedding in Bremerton for the last month to see how the growth tensions in Seattle are playing out in this Navy town across the Sound.

While there, we found some unique places for you to explore now that it takes half the time to get there. We've included a few of those spots below.

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Mike Cichy is a fourth-generation amusement businessman. 

Long-time Seattleites might remember the arcade his father owned and he managed on Pier 57 – where the Great Wheel is at now.

After being there for 20 years, the arcade was asked to leave when their lease expired and Cichy moved to a new location in Bremerton.

He had already been scoping out the city for a second location for his business because it’s where he lives with his wife, who was raised in the area. Cichy said the commute from Bremerton to Seattle by ferry didn’t seem too bad compared with being stuck in traffic from his former home in Issaquah to Seattle.

Now he doesn’t have as much of a commute, but though he loves Bremerton, he does miss being in Seattle and is keeping his eye on real estate there for his business.

Bremerton has its advantages: Cichy said it has a more local, less touristy feel.

Cichy said his goal has always been is make it affordable – come in, spend a couple of bucks, have a good time and walk out with a prize.

That works well in a Navy town that has a lot of families or even just single sailors looking to play some games.

If the fast ferry is inspiring you to move across the Sound to Bremerton, you could join the newly-formed local pinball league. It’s a thing. 

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[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Valentinetti Puppet Museum, downtown Bremerton", "style": "full"}]][asset-images[{"caption": "Valentinetti Puppet Museum, downtown Bremerton", "fid": "137542", "style": "offset_left", "uri": "public://201707/MF_Bremerton30.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer"}]]Aurora Valentinetti taught Children’s Theatre and puppetry at the University of Washington for 50 years. The Valentinetti Puppet Museum is the brainchild of one of her students, Marshall Campbell.

Campbell had puppet collections of his own – bought and made himself – and he worked with Valentinetti to bring some of her pieces into what has become the core of the museum’s 2,000 pieces.

“All gifts,” curator Stanley Hess said. “We don’t have the money to buy things. We totally depend on the generosity of people.”

That includes three international gifts, like a set of three Bunraku puppets from Bremerton’s sister city, Kure, Japan. It takes three people to operate each one, and they have seen experience on stage before being retired to the museum.

In 2004 and 2005, Washington Lt. Governor Brad Owen accepted two gifts from China on the museum’s behalf.

These puppets represent a rich history dating back to the cave men of entertainment, education and religion.

“They’re not a toy in the sense of a child’s toy. They are a means of telling stories at a much broader level, both intellectually and otherwise,” Hess said.

“It’s important that people recognize the theater arts. Puppetry is one part of theater and it’s something that encompasses all generations. It encompasses all cultures, it encompasses all story types.”

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[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Elandan Gardens, outside Bremerton", "style": "full"}]][asset-images[{"caption": "Elandan Gardens, outside Bremerton.", "fid": "137563", "style": "offset_left", "uri": "public://201707/DSCN0389.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Posey Gruener"}]]Elandan Gardens is a horticultural paradise on the waterfront outside of Bremerton.

It used to be the city’s garbage dump.

Bonsai gardener Dan Robinson said it took two years of application to repurpose the city-owned land. The eight acres were burned and left to settle before the garden started moving in January 1993.

There’s advantage to this inauspicious history: Robinson said the redwoods he planted in 1998 love it.

After the dump was burned, a debris field of mostly iron cans was leftover (they didn’t have aluminum in the 1940s). The iron rusts and forms a fertilizer for the conifers.

“They’re happy. Their roots are down in the old garbage dump,” Robinson said. “These guys are down there slurping up that chelated iron.”

Robinson is a gleaner, and Elandan has a one of a kind collection including a tsunami tree from Ocean Shores, ponderosa pine from Wyoming and stalagmites from China.

“It just puts you in a different frame of mind when you go through this kind of garden. I’m sure you’ve been in gardens where it’s all flowers,” Robinson said. “That’s OK, but it’s a little too sexual for me. Show me some structure that’s really fabulous, I don’t need all those blossoms.”