PORT TOWNSEND — The Fort Worden State Park boat ramp has been closed indefinitely to motorized vehicle launching while State Parks staff apply for new permits to perform maintenance work.
The state Parks and Recreation Commission announced the closure Monday.
While the need for ramp maintenance is constant, State Parks Southwest Region Manager Ed Girard said staff discovered this summer that the department did not have active permits to do the required work.
He blamed staff cuts for causing State Parks to lose track of the permit schedules.
“The permits slipped through the cracks,” he said.
The closure is to prevent cars from getting stuck in sand that has built up on the ramp.
Non-motorized boat launching still will be permitted, although the ramp could be closed completely on days when construction equipment is working in the area.
Sand and forest debris are regularly deposited on the ramp and have to be cleaned off, particularly after storms, said State Parks spokeswoman Toni Droscher.
Girard expects it will take weeks to determine a timeline for the new permits, the requirements of which are steeper than they once were.
The permits have varying lifespans that require new applications every time they expire.
The work of applying for new permits has just begun, Droscher added.
A city of Port Townsend shoreline permit, state Department of Fish and Wildlife hydraulic project approval and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit are needed.
Fish spawning seasons, which occur at different times of the year, largely govern the timing of the permits and when the work can be performed, Droscher said.
Droscher said limitations on such activities as ramp maintenance are designed to avoid juvenile salmon migration periods and forage fish spawning seasons.
Sand lance spawn from November to February and surf smelt spawn on the coast and straits in late May through October.
Fort Worden State Park beaches have documented forage fish spawning for sand lance and surf smelt.
Sediment moves along the shoreline through a process known as littoral drift. Sand is deposited in the Fort Worden boat basin area because that process is interrupted by existing breakwaters.
State Parks staff have cleared the ramp of sand and debris about twice a week during the busy summer months.
In the winter, the agency has pulled out floating docks to protect them from storms.
Without the docks, the ramp doesn’t get much use, Droscher said.
Long term, State Parks is looking at other Fort Worden locations for the boat ramp that would be more sustainable — meaning it wouldn’t require so much cleanup of silt and other debris that can disturb the natural environment, Droscher added.
The launch area is located next to a beach area facing Admiralty Inlet, along Harbor Defense Way. It is directly across that roadway from a natural history exhibit building and next to the Port Townsend Science Center.
Until maintenance is complete, State Parks recommends that motorized boaters use ramps at the Boat Haven Marina in Port Townsend, Herb Beck Marina in Quilcene, Sequim Bay State Park, Fort Flagler State Park and Mystery Bay State Park.
The marinas in Port Townsend and Quilcene are both operated by the Port of Port Townsend. Information about those ramps is available at www.portofpt.com/marine-services/marinas.
For information about the others, visit www.parks.wa.gov.
Reporter Mark Swanson can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5050, or at [email protected]