PORT TOWNSEND — When Cmdr. Rocky Pulley, commanding officer of Naval Magazine Indian Island, learned of the demolition of the “Old Blue” visitor center on Sims Way, he didn’t hesitate to offer his help.
“I felt it was a great opportunity for the Navy to join in and provide some manpower,” Pulley said. “We’re going to do what we can to finalize the project.
“We want to show that the Navy and the community work projects like this together and we build great relationships,” he said.
Pulley said Steve Everhart, previous executive officer of the base who is now retired, thought he could make a difference, too, and joined in the project with 25 Navy volunteers from the base’s security department.
“Several of the Navy personnel assigned to the anti-terrorism force protection mission at Naval Magazine Indian Island volunteered for this project,” Lt. Jeff Crabtree said. “They do a lot of the harbor stuff with security boats so the opportunity to come over to Port Townsend and do this work is something different for them.
“We’re happy to be here,” Crabtree said.
The demolition and cleanup are the final steps toward the rehabilitation of the triangle-shaped parcel on Sims Way and Jefferson Street that is frequently used as a parking lot for oversized vehicles, boats and RVs.
Port Townsend City Engineer and Project Manager Laura Parsons said the Gateway Plaza project is expected to go out to bid May 22. Estimated cost is around $800,000.
The hope is to award the project contract in mid-June. Work would then begin mid-July and be completed in October.
City Manager David Timmons said the project will beautify the area, making it more welcoming to all.
“Hopefully it will add to the landscape by removing that open asphalt area,” Timmons said. “We’ll be getting public art installed so it will be a nice welcoming place. And, it will serve the local residents, the business resource center and chamber as well as visitors.”
Parsons said engineering plans are now being finalized for Gateway Plaza.
“We’re close to having everything figured out,” Parsons said. “It will be a green space with a piece of public art. There are future restrooms at the location where the blue building was located.”
A sculpture designed by internationally-known Russell Jaqua, “For Willene,” was donated to the city by the artist before his death in 2006 and will serve as an anchor for the plaza.
“The rest of triangle will include grass, a sidewalk, rain gardens, trees, seating areas and bike racks,” Parsons said. “There are plans for parking spaces on the north side of Jefferson Street near the restroom. There will be a crosswalk to take people to the visitor center building where we are incorporating more parking.
Parsons said a second phase of the project “may or may not happen.”
On the east side of the current visitor center is Thayer Street, a gravel parking area, she said.
“We have plans to put the street through to Washington Street and include additional parking spaces and sidewalks,” Parsons said.
Jefferson County Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].