SEQUIM — In their third and final listening session Monday on the future of John Wayne Marina, Port of Port Angeles commissioners asked for — and received — an earful from Sequim residents in a packed Sequim Transit Center meeting room.
Port commissioners handled a series of questions and comments from many of the 90-plus attendees of the listening session, the majority of them asking commissioners to keep the facility and land public while dismissing the idea that county residents would approve a tax measure to make necessary facility upgrades.
Cheryl Bell of Sequim said she uses the park as a place to go and relax. She urged commissioners to look to the marina as a draw for tourism dollars.
“We have a jewel here,” Bell said. “We need to be looking at [tourism dollars] to support John Wayne Marina.”
Bell said she thought the port’s consideration of a tax levy is disingenuous.
“It’s a red herring to think we’re going to raise taxes from Sequim out to Forks … to raise money for John Wayne Marina,” she said.
Kris Ecklund, a Sequim Bay Yacht Club member, urged port commissioners to delay any kind of tax ballot proposal for two to three years until Washington state’s education funding of the McCleary decision is settled, and after other local ballot measures are decided.
“We know that if our fire district doesn’t pass [a measure] this year, they will desperately need a levy lid lift [soon after],” Ecklund said. “I think it would be very unwise to consider a ballot measure until 2022, or at least 2021.”
Liam Antrim, a 30-year Sequim resident who used to moor a boat at the marina, said the port’s consideration of selling the marina jeopardizes not just those with boats but also commercial opportunities such as crabbing.
“It sounds like the port [needs to] look at their strategic plan,” Antrim said.
Don Hatler, also from Sequim, who said he had built and operated a marina, surmised that a private owner would likely uproot the south-end parking lot for condominiums.
“If you’ve been there during halibut season, vehicles are clear up to [Highway] 101.”
Hatler added that the commissioner’s figures for revenue and expenses were “hand-picked and misleading.”
Susan Sorensen, chair for the yacht club’s annual Reach and Row for Hospice fundraiser, noted that the event has raised nearly $360,000 over the past 26 years for Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County.
If the marina were sold to a private owner, she said, “this race could disappear” and the hospice group would lose a source of funding.
Duane Webb, a doctor who lives in Sequim, said he moved to the area primarily because of John Wayne Marina.
“We feel you can’t compare Port Angeles, a shipping port, to John Wayne Marina, a recreational marina. It’s not designed to be a profit center. There are other factors at stake here besides money.”
Sharon Laska, who has a boat moored at the marina, urged caution in making a decision about the future of the Sequim facility.
“You’ve heard the saying, ‘It takes a village’? You should ask this village for help. A solution may take time.”
Others, such as Ron Fairclough and Mac MacDonald, urged the commissioners to take their time and consider possible changes for the 300-slip marina. MacDonald said change — including change of ownership — isn’t the worst thing that could happen to the entity.
“I’m all for seeing this place [run by] a fine organization,” MacDonald said.
Port commissioner Steve Burke said that while commissioners could make a decision about the future at the port’s next meeting set for July 12, they would likely take their time.
“I don’t think we have a deadline, don’t think there’s any rush on this,” Burke said. “John Wayne Marina is an iconic entity. It needs to stay an iconic public entity that anyone can use.”
Colleen McAleer, District 1 representative (Sequim), echoed Burke’s sentiments.
“We’re not in a rush to do this,” McAleer, stressing the marina needs to remain in public use.
“I want you to know I heard you,” McAleer told the audience. “I can’t imagine representing Sequim and voting to not keep it in public hands.”
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].