Vashon Park District moves forward to plan $2.7 million dock

If grant and community funding is successful, then potential permits, demolition and replacement construction could proceed in 2025.

Last week, Vashon Park District (VPD) commissioners voted unanimously to take its next step on plans to replace Tramp Harbor Dock — a 340-foot-long iconic island structure that has been closed since 2019, due to deteriorating conditions.

The motion by commissioner Hans Van Dusen, made at the district’s Jan. 10 meeting, was for VPD to “move forward on an approximately $2.7 million replacement dock, including the contingency, with a minimum 6-foot wide walkway and a minimum 12 foot by 30-foot platform, to enhance the marine habitat and user opportunities.”

The motion allows VPD to now engage with its engineering firm, KPFF Consulting Engineers (KPFF), to undertake additional structural analysis and financial estimates for the replacement dock.

The final shape of a new dock will not be known until this engineering work is completed, said Van Dusen, in a commentary co-written with Commission Chair Josh Henderson (see page 6), but is likely to result in a dock design with a 40% narrower pier, which is 10% short in length, and with an end platform that is approximately half the size of the current dock.

“The Park Board believes this more modest footprint will retain the desired public benefit, and improve marine habitat and fishery access, while not overburdening local funding, with substantial state or county grant awards to supplement limited district resources and significant community funding,” Van Dusen and Henderson wrote.

If grant and community funding is successful, they added, then potential permits, demolition and replacement construction could proceed in 2025.

Community input sought in decision

The board’s decision on Jan. 10 came after two years of work by the district, in 2020 and 2021, to negotiate a new tidelands lease with the state to address shellfish harvest concerns with the state and tribes — an agreement that stipulated a somewhat shortened dock as required by non-negotiable treaty rights.

During this time, the district also identified grant sources for the project, and in 2022, the project moved to its next phase.

In October, VPD announced that it had sought, from KPFF, several options for either restoring or replacing the dock, with varying price tags. These options included repairing the existing dock, at a cost of $4.3 million, or replacing the dock with one that was shorter, but otherwise had a similar footprint, at a cost of $4 million.

A more narrow dock with a smaller footprint was also detailed, at a potential cost of $2.7 million.

A fourth option, priced at $424,000, was also presented to islanders — demolishing the dock and not replacing it.

Throughout late October, November and December, VPD asked the community to weigh in on the decision at multiple public meetings as well as through corresponding directly with the district.

Much of the feedback that ensued, said Van Dusen and Henderson, emphasized the importance of maintaining “equitable access to marine interaction,” as well as access for fishing, birding and sightseeing. Islanders also suggested solutions to improve the marine environment and maintained the historic significance of the site.

Paying for the dock

Throughout the period of public input, VPD shared its plan to pay for the new dock — an expense that would not necessitate a bond measure, said commissioners and VPD’s executive director, Elaine Ott-Rocheford.

Ott-Rocheford explained, at an Oct. 25 meeting, that she had heard from several members of the public who voiced strong opposition to a bond measure to finance the replacement of the dock, due to an increase in property valuations.

“Interestingly, several people had a misperception that this project would increase their property taxes, so they effectively said, “just tear it down,” she said, adding that when she had explained that taxes would not be affected, given the funding proposed by VPD, these islanders had expressed support for moving forward with the dock replacement project. According to a fact sheet about the dock replacement project, now posted on, funding for the new dock could come from a variety of sources, including $800,000 from VPD’s existing budget.

Three grants, from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, are expected to total another $1.5 million for the project.

And at the board’s Jan. 10 meeting, Ott-Rochefort said she had found another possible source of funding for the project — a King County Parks capital grant for $1 million, which if successfully won by VPD, would be received in 2025.

The possibility of receiving the grant would be “fantastic,” said Ott-Rocheford.

“We want to be very conservative and careful in our planning, that financial resources are in place before making final commitments for construction,” she added.

Ott-Rocheford said she was also heartened by some islanders’ current interest in reviving the long-dormant Vashon Parks Foundation — a nonprofit entity established in 2017 by an islander, Kelly Schmidt, who subsequently moved off the island.

The foundation, Ott-Rochefort said, could contribute to special VPD projects including the dock replacement and other capitol projects including the aging Vashon Pool.

In an interview, Barb McMahon, an islander who has been active in work to re-establish the foundation as a fundraising arm for VPD, invited islanders to contact her at to find out more about the group and get involved.

Vashon Park District’s next commissioners’ meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24. Agenda items include a discussion of repairs to Keeper Quarters A and B, at Point Robinson, which were damaged by heavy flooding during recent King Tides. The board will also vote to approve a ballot measure to go before voters, in April, to renew VPD’s regular property tax levy, funding all its operations, for 2024-2027, at a rate of .45 cents per $1000 assessed home value. Voters last approved the same rate for VPD in 2019.