PORT ANGELES — The city of Port Angeles and McKinley Paper Co. have amended a longstanding lease to allow the Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association to move its boathouse on Ediz Hook to the city’s Sail and Paddle Park.
The City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday to remove one of two lots from the 1967 lease signed by Crown Zellerbach Corp., a McKinley predecessor.
The lot sits between the idle McKinley mill and the present Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association boathouse.
The parcel, which has not been used for mill operations, provides beach access to Port Angeles Harbor and space for the rowing club to expand.
“It’s a perfect spot,” Dr. Scott Kennedy, Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association board president, told the council Tuesday.
“It’s safer for launching the shells from the beach. It has room for expanding the current boathouse and future facilities.”
The Sail and Paddle Park is protected from erosion and “lies in front of 3,000 beautiful meters of rowing lane that’s protected from both boat traffic and from the wind for the most part,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy, who is also the chief medical officer at Olympic Medical Center, said in a Wednesday interview that the rowing association hopes to move the boathouse to a location near the city park picnic tables by the end of this year.
The council approved the lease amendment as part of its consent agenda. Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter was absent.
In a public comment period, Kennedy thanked the parties for supporting the amended lease.
“I wish Mr. John Halberg could be here tonight,” Kennedy said, referring to the founder of the Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association, who died in January 2017 at the age of 80.
“I think he’s probably smiling down on us as we go through this process tonight. John was the energetic and inspiring force behind getting OPRA started, making sure that youth had opportunities to learn rowing.
“But mainly, he had a vision of developing a first-class rowing program and rowing center here in Port Angeles for the Olympic Peninsula,” Kennedy added.
“We’re here tonight to continue carrying that vision forward with the help of many in the community.”
OPRA has about 30 youth rowers, 30 adult rowers and a team of expert coaches. Its board aims to expand the youth membership to 100.
“Our goal is to continue to grow,” Kennedy said.
“To do that, we need to move the current boathouse from its current location to a location that’s safer for rowers and also allows for expansion of facilities to accommodate program growth in the future.”
Council member Jim Moran, an original OPRA board member and treasurer, said rowing provides more college scholarships for Port Angeles-area youth than any other sport.
“We have an opportunity now to offer a sport on a larger scale that will put more of our kids in college than any other sport available today,” Moran said.
Acting City Manager Nathan West, who was credited for shepherding the lease amendment, said McKinley recognized a “community value” in providing a home for OPRA.
“Untimely, we’re really appreciative and we have a lot of interest in making this youth activity a success in our community,” West said.
McKinley Paper Co. purchased the former Nippon Paper Industries USA paper mill on Ediz Hook for $20.6 million in March 2017.
When it purchased the mill, McKinley planned to retool the factory to process recycled corrugated cardboard into manufactured containerboard by December 2018.
The company announced in February that production would begin no sooner than 2019, with no specific date made public.
Herb Baez, vice president of the Mexican-owned company’s U.S. operation, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
McKinley spokeswoman Cathy Price said she could not comment on the status of the mill.
“The company doesn’t want us talking to the press,” Price said Wednesday.
Kennedy said the amended lease would allow the rowing association to teach more youth lessons in teamwork, motivation, perseverance, responsibility and stewardship of resources.
“These are things that are needed to be successful on the water, but we also think in life,” Kennedy told the council.
“And really, our basic goal is to develop great citizens and great rowers and give them the opportunity to compete and the opportunity to win.”
Kennedy added that OPRA is open to rowers of all skill levels.
“If you’ve met John Halberg, you know this is a good thing,” Council member Cherie Kidd said.
“If you’ve met John Halberg, you understand the vibrancy and energy rowing has brought to our community.
“I’m just delighted, and keep going, guys,” Kidd told the OPRA members in the audience. “Just keep rowing.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].