PORT TOWNSEND — The state Parks and Recreation Commission is in a pre-design phase on a project at Fort Worden that would remove the boat launch and questions what to do with the pier.
About 75 people attended a public meeting Thursday night at the Fort Worden Commons to provide input on three alternatives.
One would rehabilitate the pier and add an elevated boat launch.
Another would relocate the pier and require the Port Townsend Marine Science Center to build on land.
A third option would remove both the boat launch and pier without replacing them; it also would require the Marine Science Center to move.
When State Parks planner Michael Hankinson asked the crowd if anyone was there in connection with the Marine Science Center, about a dozen people stood up.
“I will take it that you care,” Hankinson said with a smile. “State Parks cares, too.”
The Parks and Recreation Commission has about $62,500 in state capital budget funds — 1.25 percent of the estimated $5 million project — to gauge public interest and determine if the total costs would be justifiable.
Hankinson said the parks commission plans to return for another public meeting in late spring or early summer to present a preferred alternative before it files a report this fall with the state Office of Financial Management.
The total price tag on the project, which is not now funded by the state, could change significantly based on the preferred alternative, Hankinson said.
“We care for historic places, and we preserve them,” he said.
“But we’re also asked to create access to them.”
Janine Boire, the executive director of the Marine Science Center, thanked State Parks representatives and the Fort Worden Public Development Authority for including her facility among stakeholders.
“Could we make any of these work? Probably,” Boire said. “Because the pier is potentially going away, I think we’ve been at the table a little more than some of the other constituents.”
Boire said a potential move has been in Marine Science Center’s strategic planning process for four or five years. A move could include an expansion up to an additional 50 percent of the current space, she said.
“Looking at the big picture for the marine environment is at the heart of our mission,” Boire said. “We’ve spent a lot of time soul searching.
“We want something that is sustainably built, and we want to be a model to set a higher standard and be a demonstration for other organizations trying to do this sort of thing.”
Hankinson and Anna Spooner, a consultant with Anchor QEA of Seattle, each provided presentations, and then the public split into groups to write suggestions for each of the proposed alternatives.
Some public comments focused on a non-motorized boat launch for kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Others raised concerns about eelgrass, sediment and additional environmental issues that could affect offshore habitat.
Spooner listed 10 design criteria used to rank the options, including a plan to improve near-shore habitat and a plan for sea level rise.
The 50-year design created to last until 2070 likely would raise shoreline building standards higher than Federal Emergency Management Agency standards, she said.
“There’s an opportunity to create new connections — pedestrian and vehicle connections — in a safe way,” Spooner said.
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].