Dec. 2 was a “Sad day for Vashon Island,” wrote one Facebook user on the Vashonites page with a picture of a fenced-off Tramp Harbor dock.
Those words and the accompanying picture hit us hard here at The Beachcomber, a publication that has reported on the dock’s recent struggles, both from a political and structural standpoint. But it’s true — Tramp Harbor dock was closed to the public on Monday on the orders of its insurance provider.
The latest development comes as the district, which cannot afford to repair or replace the structure, is working with an attorney to settle the stalemate between it and the state over a lease agreement that must be signed in order to keep the far half of the dock standing. For several years, the public was able to use the dock at their own risk with warning signs posted at the entrance and on railings.
A meeting of the Park District commissioners on Nov. 26 — which occurred after The Beachcomber’s Thanksgiving edition went to press — allowed community members to weigh in on the matter, with some accusing officials of failing in their duty to save the dock. Others, meanwhile, suggested different strategies the district could try to keep the dock open.
Both Elaine Ott-Rocheford, executive director of the Park District, and Bob McMahon, the chairman of the district’s board of commissioners, pledged their support in efforts to open the dock.
Whether a lease agreement with the state can be reached remains to be seen, but it cannot be disputed that Tramp Harbor dock is something of a landmark on the island that has brought joy to residents for many years.
In fact, a survey of dock users — a partnership between the district and King County — shed light on just how much they enjoy it. The survey found that 62% percent of the over 700 people surveyed said they used the dock regularly; 40% said they used it year-round; half of the respondents said they used it for watching wildlife — something Ott-Rocheford told The Beachcomber she thought was surprising because the “most visible users” of the dock were there to fish. The survey found other uses for the dock included picnicking, photography, reading a book or simply sitting.
In addition to the survey showing the ways in which residents use Tramp Harbor, Ott-Rocheford said it also found 76% of respondents “felt the dock was very important.”
“That is a significant statistic to me as the Executive Director of the Vashon Park District,” she wrote in an email to the newspaper. “That is a resounding vote of community support for saving an iconic piece of the island’s history.”
The survey results and the recent Park District meeting should serve as reminders to residents on the island that they, too, have a voice when it comes to the future of the dock.
The Beachcomber hopes for the best as negotiations move forward so that Tramp Harbor dock can be a gathering place for the community once again.