PORT TOWNSEND — The state Parks and Recreation Commission is inviting the public to provide input on a project aimed at improving the marine area at Fort Worden.
The project aims to replace the existing boat launch area with one that is more ecologically compatible with the shoreline and its natural processes and to also consider alternatives to either rehabilitate, remove, or remove and replace the pier.
Because the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is located on the pier, a new location will be considered in the mix of options, according to State Parks.
Exactly what will be done yet has not been decided and State Parks is seeking input from the public as it develops its plan, said planner Michael Hankinson.
The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday in the Commons Building, Room A at Fort Worden, 210 Battery Way.
“There will be a presentation and an open house component to it where people can learn about the individual alternatives,” Hankinson said. “We really want to know what people think.”
The Parks and Recreation Commission says that this is the first phase of the project and that it is working with consultant Anchor QEA of Seattle as it prepares a predesign report for the state Office of Financial Management.
That report will compare alternatives and will consider constructability and costs, compatibility with the natural environment, recreational access improvements and consideration of aesthetics within the historical context of the fort.
Hankinson said the goal is to address a number of problems with the area.
He said the design of the area is “disjointed” and creates vehicle and pedestrian conflicts. The goal is to come up with a solution for boat parking as well.
“It was designed as a fort, not a park,” Hankinson said. “We have an opportunity to improve things.
He said the WWII-era pier and boat launch both create ecological problems as well. They both prevent sand from migrating naturally along the beach.
“The natural processes are interrupted by the buildings,” he said. “If you want to improve the ecology of the shoreline, that’s one thing you want to address.”
How State Parks will address those issues isn’t yet known, he said. There is also no preferred alternative yet.
That will come after input from the public.
State Parks is considering whether it should keep the existing pier, rehabilitate it, remove it or replace it. State Parks is also considering how to include a boat launch “so that it also benefits recreational purposes and can be more compatible with natural systems there.”
Janine Boire, executive director of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, lauded State Parks’ efforts to include the public this early in the process and that she is excited for the opportunity.
“The constraints and the perspective the state Parks and the [Public Development Authority] have put in as a framework for the process are really good,” Boire said.
She said the plan will strive to reach some “high level goals,” including improving the marine environment, improving safety and traffic flow and separating pedestrians from boat trailer traffic.
She said this project is also an opportunity for the Marine Science Center, which she described as “bursting at the seams.”
Boire said it is important for the Marine Science Center to become the “right sized” in terms of what the Marine Science Center can afford and in terms of the marine environment.
“When you look at the complexity of the design constraints, one of the key things for us is to be unified into one visitor building,” she said. “I think the likely hood of us designing something on land is pretty strong, but we are honoring that process that State Parks is engaging in.”
She said they are exploring all possibilities, including expanding on the pier.
Hankinson said it is difficult to know how long the project will take and what the cost could be without first knowing when funds would be allocated by the state Legislature and what exactly the project would look like.
Budgets from both chambers include more than $4 million for Fort Worden State Park infrastructure improvements in Port Townsend, including $613,000 for pier and learning center improvements.
He estimated the project could cost around $5 million, but said that is a rough number that could change depending on the scope of the project. For example, it would likely cost much less if the pier is removed and not replaced, he said.
The timeline isn’t clear either.
“It depends on how much funding is available,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to speculate on a timeline without knowing.”
He said State Parks will consider all comments when it analyzed the alternatives and a second public meeting will be announced for late spring. At that meeting State Parks staff will present a preliminary recommendation for public review.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].