Diary 2008: A sampler of Island memories

PEAK, Tent City, Merrimount, I-90 and transportation issues filled the news pages of the Reporter this year. But it is often the smaller, seemingly insignificant events that best capture life on Mercer Island.

A female bald eagle returns to freedom as Stephanie Trussell

A female bald eagle returns to freedom as Stephanie Trussell

PEAK, Tent City, Merrimount, I-90 and transportation issues filled the news pages of the Reporter this year. But it is often the smaller, seemingly insignificant events that best capture life on Mercer Island.

Community celebrations, the practice of faith and service to others, and enjoying the outdoors ­— along with the good, bad and the absurd— all sum up another memorable Island year.


As the year begins, Islanders jump into the frigid lake, count the birds and their blessings.

A sailor from Renton loses his life when he apparently falls out of his sailboat on Dec. 27, 2007, somewhere in the East Channel of Lake Washington. But the news about his dog, found alive days later by an Island resident who lives along East Mercer Way, generates just as much interest. No one knows if the dog swam or jumped off the boat as it drifted near the shore.

On a less hopeful note for the New Year, someone dumps heaps of unwanted items at the thrift store, leaving employees to clean up the mess.

An injured adult bald eagle is joyfully released from Luther Burbank Park after being rescued several weeks earlier.

The North Mercer Park and Ride re-opens after a two-year closure and months of delays.

The Travelodge, the only motel on the Island for more than 40 years, is torn down. No one is sad to see it go — but its demise leaves no place for visitors to stay on the Island.

Deer begin to appear in backyards and driveways.

A group of Boy Scouts, together since middle school, achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.


Eager to participate in the upcoming presidential election, Islanders crowd the political caucuses on the Island.

In a sign indicative of the times, the Mercer Island School District places its required Pacific Northwest History class online and makes it available to middle schoolers.

Neighbors and arborists debate the fate of a designated wildlife tree in harm’s way due to construction nearby.

More and more Mini Coopers and Prius model cars ply Island roads. As interest in using eco-friendly fuel increases, a biodiesel station opens in Factoria.

Members of the Mercer Island Rotary take 1,000 wheelchairs to India.

Island resident, Seahawks football hero and coach, Jim Zorn, is chosen as the head coach of the Washington Redskins.

A report by the city shows that 270 acres or 850 living units worth of land are left on the Island.

City funding for Mary Wayte Pool, reduced in the fall of 2007, is restored to its full amount.


Blessed by sun instead of rain, the annual Mercer Island Rotary Run signs up a record 4,000 runners on March 5. The starting line is moved from the Town Center to Luther Burbank Park.

The Boys & Girls Club PEAK project continues to work its way through the permit process. Neighbors decry the size of the project and worry about traffic and other effects on their already congested neighborhood.

School levies pass in the mid-winter election.

Rights to withdraw water directly from Lake Washington, first granted in 1888, become available again for purchase. Homeowners with lake front property who use the lake to irrigate their lawns and gardens start applying for and buying the rights, filling the Reporter with legal notices.


Spring vacation arrives. Islanders head to warmer climes. The youth group from the Mercer Island Presbyterian Church travels to Mexico to build homes for the poor.

Mercer Island High School musicians make a trip to China.

With graduation deadlines looming, members of the high school graduating class of 2008 scramble to complete their senior culminating project.

The temperature reaches 79 on April 12. The month concludes with 22 days of rain — the wettest month of the year.


High school students begin to receive responses to their college applications. MIHS seniors, along with students from across the state, are turned away from state colleges due to a lack of space and the high number of qualified applicants.

A pair of City Councilmen try out Tasers, perhaps to get themselves prepared for the election season.

Candidates begin announcing for office. Councilmember Steve Litzow joins Sen. John McCain in mid-May on a panel discussing clean water issues.

Changes to the Merrimount-Island Crest Way intersection fill the news and letters to the editor from those who applaud the changes and those who do not.

Former Mayor Ben Werner dies.

On the floor of an Island apartment, firefighter Trever Kissel deftly delivers a baby boy who is in distress. It is his first time assisting a birth in 12 years as a firefighter and EMT on the Island. The baby and his mother are fine.


As summer begins, gas prices creep toward $4 a gallon. The sudden mind-blowing cost of driving pushes Islanders to join neighbors on the bus to work and the market.

The Mercer Island Clergy Association announces its intent to host Tent City in August.

Mercer Island High School holds commencement exercises for 352 graduates in the WAMU Theater at Qwest Field.

Other Islanders are awarded long-delayed college degrees. Hiro Nishimura receives a degree from the University of Washington, and Jack Nomi is granted one from Oregon State University. The two were among hundreds of Japanese heritage whose education was interrupted when they were interned at camps during WWII.

Islanders make plans to attend national political conventions as record amounts of money are donated to fund political campaigns.

Islander Jim Trombold is named Citizen of the Year.

Islanders for Common Sense, a group of people who live near the proposed site of the PEAK project, reach a settlement with the club to ease impacts from the project.

New YTN Director Manuel Cawaling brings years of local theater experience and work with youth as he joins Youth Theatre Northwest in time for its 25th anniversary year.


Concerns over the real estate and the economy begin to come home. The number of real estate listings increase as prices begin to flatten out. The number of tracts of vacant land for sale on the Island increases to 29.

As sun worshippers fill Island beaches, lifeguard Trevor Powell saves a swimmer in distress in the lake at Groveland Beach.

Horses, cowboys and dachshunds amble down Island streets during A Wild West Summer Celebration!

Islanders head to the parks to take in Shakespeare, dance and listen to music.

A report from the state indicates that the Island population increased by 300 in 2007, the third year in a row that the Island population has grown.

Deer sightings continue. Islanders send in several photos to be published in the Reporter.

The home of Island residents Kurt and Leslie Dammierer, the owners of Bennett’s Pure Food Bistro in the Town Center, is heavily damaged by a fire on July 4. Nearly 50 firefighters come to help with the fire that is visible for miles.

Island Square sells to Colorado investors for $112 million.

Tent City dominates the news, and comments fly on the Mercer Island Reporter Web site. Commenting without identification is soon no longer allowed.

After years of foot-dragging, Mercer Island City Council meetings are finally televised.

A treasured cross is stolen from Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

Local businesses feel the pain of economic downturn. Cobs Bakery closes.

Permits for the expansion of the Shorewood Heights Apartments are approved.


Tent City 4 moves in at the United Methodist Church.

The City Council decides to revisit changes made to improve safety at the Island Crest Way and Merrimount intersection.

The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels scream overhead in the days leading up to a picture-perfect SeaFair weekend.

After months of work and preparation by a group of Islanders called IslandVision, a farmers market comes to the Town Center.

QFC and other stores encourage customers to bring reusable bags to stores.

Sound Transit and the state Department of Transportation begin discussions on tolling throughout the region, including a meeting on the Island. Most Islanders do not like the notion of tolling I-90 to pay for another bridge.

Strange county property valuation notices land in Island mailboxes. Many Islanders worry about their ability to pay future property taxes, and seek appeals.

The rowing shell used by the women’s U.S. Olympic Team to win the gold medal in the Women’s 8 competition in Beijing is named ‘The Hunter’ after a UW supporter and late Islander, Hunter Simpson.

The state’s first Top Two primary election takes place.

The first-ever sailing and kayaking lessons take place at Luther Burbank Park.


A carjacking starts in Seattle and ends in the Town Center on Sept. 6. Two suspects are arrested at gunpoint. Another escapes but is later taken into custody.

The city, county and other agencies begin taking steps to reduce spending while planning for tighter budgets in the future.

The Mercer Island Reporter completes its transition to a new network of community Web sites.

Volunteers providing food and other services for Tent City residents visit the camp daily.

The first class to graduate from Mercer Island High School, the Class of 1958, celebrates its 50th reunion.

School begins with more than 100 students in the Mercer Island School District from out of district.

Election season heats up, and signs pepper streets and yards Islandwide.

September weather is a stunner. There is no precipitation for 17 days straight. Temperatures fall below 60 just once and reach 80 on Sept. 16.


Beautiful fall weather continues into October but does not last for long.

On the eve of the election, two City Councilmembers publicly oppose the two parks measures on the ballot.

The newly completed Aljoya House opens.

Long-time Island resident and community supporter, Edward Maloof, dies.

The Mercer Island Reporter and the League of Women Voters hold the annual voters forum at the middle school.

The annual MIHS Homecoming Parade storms the Town Center. In November, the marching band makes a bid to appear in the Presidential Inaugural Parade.

A giant bright blue duck seen around town and near Mary Wayte Pool is finally identified and captured on film.

City officials report that water shutoffs are increasing because of unpaid utility bills.

The parish of St. Monica celebrates its 50th anniversary on the Island.


All of the excitement and anticipation over the presidential election comes to a peak on Nov. 4. Incumbents win legislative seats, and Marcie Maxwell of Renton edges City Councilman Steve Litzow to represent the 41st District in Olympia.

Islanders and their political preferences are featured in a story in the newspaper of Thonon Les Bains, the Island’s sister city in France. The article incorrectly states that Mercer Island is on the East Coast.

Former State Rep. Fred May dies.

Tent City 4 packs up and heads to its next site in Kirkland without fanfare.

Prices for Island homes continue to tumble as the number of Island properties for sale jumps to 250, 100 more than a year ago.


The city’s Design Commission approves the plans for PEAK, paving the way for a building permit to be issued for the teen center and fieldhouse to be constructed on property owned by the school district.

For its friendly staff and community service, the North-end QFC is named Business of the Year.

The city informs some users of CCMV that it needs to use more space to rent for income.

The month starts out with a 55-degree high on Dec. 1. Arctic air hits on Dec. 13. The temperature falls to just 14 on Dec. 20. Snow reaches as much as a foot or more in Island yards before freezing rain begins to tamp it down on Christmas Eve. Snow surfers hit streets and parks. Trash piles up along with the snow and slush.

And another Island year is in the books.

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