Public asked to comment on Fort Worden pier, boat launch

Posted 6/5/19

The public is being offered a chance to weigh in on the fate of Fort Worden State Park’s pier and boat launch, and with them the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, during a June 10 meeting at the Commons.

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Public asked to comment on Fort Worden pier, boat launch

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The public is being offered a chance to weigh in on the fate of Fort Worden State Park’s pier and boat launch, and with them the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, during a June 10 meeting at the Commons.

Room A of the Commons Building at Fort Worden will host the public comment meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. June 10, as four alternatives are presented for the future of the pier, the boat launch and the Marine Science Center that currently sits on the end of the pier.

The four alternatives are to 1. rehabilitate, 2. relocate, 3. remove or 4. do nothing to the pier, launch and MSC.

During an April 18 briefing, Anna Spooner, of environmental consultants Anchor QEA, noted that the design criteria for any such project would be to improve nearshore habitat and plan for rising sea levels, by designing the overall facilities sustainably and unifying the marine area to support recreation and maintain the historic district’s integrity.

As such, Spooner added the project would need to minimize archaeology impacts, costs and impacts to the MSC, all while considering permit feasibility.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has stated that it’s seeking to replace the existing boat launch with one that is more ecologically compatible with the shoreline and its natural processes.

According to Spooner, who rated each of the four alternatives on a “high,” “medium” and “low” scale of meeting the design criteria, rehabilitation rates “high” for supporting recreation and maintaining historic district integrity, and “medium” for sea level rise planning, design sustainability, marine area unification and archaeology impact minimization.

Rehabilitation scored “low” for the remaining four out of 10 design criteria.

Relocation also rates “high” on Spooner’s scale in supporting recreation, and in unifying the marine area, while rating “medium” on the remaining eight out of 10 design criteria.

Removal rates “high” for improving nearshore habitat, planning for sea level rise, design sustainability, considering permit feasibility and mining cost, and “medium” for minimizing archaeology impact, but “low” for the remaining four out of 10 design criteria.

Taking no action at all scored a “low” rating for seven out of 10 design criteria, with only maintaining the historic district’s integrity rating a “medium,” and “high” ratings for minimizing cost and archaeological impacts.

Among the public comments submitted during and after the April 18 public meeting, concerns were expressed about how the proposed alternatives might change what the beach’s fans consider its unique and valuable character.

Public commenters have voiced fears that the narrow roads leading from the park entrance to the beach could be congested by increased boat and trailer traffic, especially since those roads are already used by so many pedestrians of all ages, including pets, walking to the beach.

In addition to worrying about the challenges of separating boat traffic from pedestrians, a number of commenters are already dreading what they anticipate to be an influx of noise and other environmental pollution.

The first alternative’s inclusion of an elevated boat launch drew the ire of some commenters, creating what some called an “eyesore” by bisecting the beach and overshadowing the existing picnic shelter, while also presenting a potential hazard for boat trailers backing up.

Those who cannot attend the June 10 meeting may still submit public comment to Parks Planner Michael Hankinson at Michael.Hankinson@parks.wa.gov or 360-725-9756, or via postal mail at P.O. Box 42650, Olympia, WA 98504-2650.

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