QUILCENE — More than 40 people attended a public meeting conducted by the Port of Port Townsend and Jefferson County Public Utility District to learn more about upgrades to Herb Beck Marina and plans to construct a campground on the property.
Wednesday’s gathering in Quilcene was a continuation of meetings the port had held to gather input from the community about the project that will replace the marina’s degraded boat ramp with a new launch ramp — with an access wedge and handling float — renovate its aging restroom to make it ADA-compliant; and improve the parking lot.
The $2.136 million project is funded with a $1 million Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office grant and $1.136 in industrial development district (IDD) tax levy funds. Construction is anticipated to begin in the summer of 2025.
The upgrades are part of the port’s overall plan for the marina that will include restoring the dock, dredging and installing a public restroom and outdoor shower at some point. These elements are not yet funded.
Dredging, Berg said, is particularly challenging because the port is unlikely to obtain funding to pay for it and the lengthy permitting process required.
To do the work itself, the port would have to purchase the appropriate equipment.
“We’re trying to decide approaches to that,”Berg said. “We could go out there and let out a contract for a maintenance dredge or a big dredge to get out all that material, but what happens in seven to 10 years is it’s all back? So, we are exploring some opportunities or some possibilities of doing a maintenance dredge ourselves on maybe an annual basis or something.”
The marina design is still being worked on, Deputy Director Eric Toews said. The design needed to fulfill the requirements of state funding, such as ADA accessibility, and would address some of the issues and comments raised at the meeting. Cost was also a consideration.
“Nationwide, what we’ve seen over the last three years with capital projects is really pretty outrageous inflation on public capital infrastructure projects on the order of 10 to 12 percent year over year,” Toews said. “We’re going to sharpen our pencils and do the very best we can to deliver the best value for the public.”
Restoration of camping on the southern edge of the marina property was not part of the port’s immediate plan until it was approached by the Jefferson County Public Utility District.
The PUD offered to lay down gravel and install utilities to create a place for contractors to live when they began work on a $51 million high-speed fiber optic cable project in January 2024.
PUD General Manager Kevin Streett said the highly competitive environment for installing fiber optic cable meant contractors could pick and choose the projects they wanted to bid on.
“One of the problems we have in Jefferson County is there’s a real lack of housing for contractors who come in,” Streett said. “Some people have places where contractors can set up trailers and live for six to eight months and then they go to the next project. We don’t have those locations here.”
The PUD could better position itself, Streett said, if it could offer trailer spaces for contractors when it sends its bids out in late October or early November. It is also working against a tight deadline, Streett said, because the project’s funding mandated it had to be completed by July 31 2024.
When the project is finished and after contractors leave, the RV park would become a port-maintained and -operated facility.
People at the meeting expressed a number of concerns about the campground, primarily that it would increase traffic on Linger Longer Road that leads to the marina and that it would eliminate a popular grassy and tree-shaded area where children played and families picnicked.
“One of the benefits of having that area there is that it’s been sort of cherished by the community,” one man said. “If you take all of that out and dedicate it just for RVs, the locals couldn’t use the area.”
Berg said that one of the benefits for the port in partnering with the PUD on the campground was the ability to gain an asset that enhanced Herb Beck Marina and could generate funds for improvements.
Among the suggestions from the audience as preferable alternatives to building the campground were the Quilcene Campground and the port-managed and operated Jefferson County International Airport.
“So, we’d lose out on the PUD’s help building this campground, but what if this campground isn’t necessarily what the community wants?” asked one man.
“Well, that’s why we’re here,” Berg said.
The port plans to return to Quilcene for another meeting to discuss the marina project, design plans and RV campground in another month or two.
The Jefferson County Public Utility District’s high-speed Olympic Fiber Corridor covers Discovery Bay, Gardiner, Quilcene and parts of Chimacum.
The $51 million project was funded with grants and loans through a number of different state and federal agencies. These included the Washington State Broadband Office, the Washington State Public Works Board, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the USDA ReConnect Loan and Grant Program.
To find out more about the PUD fiber optic project and register to see if you are in a funded project area, go to fiber.jeffpud.org/.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at Paula.Hunt@soundpublishing.com