What Comes Next for Tramp Harbor dock?

The park district is one step closer to replacing or preserving portions of the existing structure.

  • Saturday, November 7, 2020 12:28pm
  • Opinion

At long last, the Vashon Park District has exciting news concerning the Tramp Harbor dock!

After years of negotiating with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), we have reached a satisfactory lease arrangement that allows us to move forward with replacing or hopefully preserving portions of the existing structure. The negotiating process has been a long one due to insurance requirements and environmental risk factors that your commissioners were unable to agree to responsibly. DNR has been a great partner in hearing our concerns and making adjustments that meet our needs. We can now meet the insurance requirements, and the environmental risk factors have been tested and deemed to be low.

The requirement for a lease with DNR is due to their ownership of the tidelands beneath the dock. The dock is 340 feet long, and DNR owns the outer 160 feet of the tidelands beneath. The Vashon Park District owns the first 180 feet of the tidelands. The overriding concern to DNR in negotiating a new lease was mitigation of the creosote leaching into Puget Sound in addition to necessary light penetration to the seabed below. Restoring the dock’s creosote pilings is not an option.

We had the option of simply removing the outer 160 feet of the dock and not moving forward with the lease, but public input indicated a strong desire to preserve the deep-water access afforded by the present length. Too, there is a strong sentiment for the dock at its present length — for its rich historic significance to the community and for its value for fishing, bird watching, scuba diving, or just enjoying the breeze of the Sound.

The burning question, then, is, “What’s next?” Unfortunately, the dock must remain closed until we determine the next steps. This is a requirement of our insurance company and is a stipulation of the lease. Addressing the deterioration of 11 of the 96 pilings and other areas of infrastructure did not make financial sense, because the initial draft of the lease pointed to dock replacement as a likely outcome. The park district feels this would have been throwing good money after bad.

The good news is that we may not have to fully replace the creosote pilings other than those deemed to be compromised. Pile wrapping is one approved option. The wood deck planks must be 100% replaced with grating, however, to satisfy the light penetration requirement.

Preserving the dock’s length could still be an issue. The outer quarter of the dock (including the outer platform at the end of the dock) rests over the Point Heyer Geoduck Tract, which is co-managed by the State and the NW Indian Fisheries Commission for harvest. The lease stipulates that a pier replacement cannot occur within the geoduck tract. An exception to that, pile wrapping the existing pilings, could potentially be allowed, but approval must be obtained from the Tribes and the State.

Once the size of the dock is determined, the next challenge will be funding the project. State grant monies are available for up to half a million dollars, but grant funding typically is ear-marked for construction only and not for architectural, design, and engineering services (A&E). A&E is necessary to determine construction costs. While precise dollar figures are unavailable and the outline of the project yet to be determined, even with state grants this project probably will be the largest financial lift for the park district in many years.

Fortunately, a wonderful group of concerned citizens formed about a year ago to spearhead fundraising efforts to “Save the Dock” once the lease was finalized. We anticipate fundraising to begin next year. Please reach out to me at eott@vashonparks.org if you would like more information about the group, fundraising efforts, or plans for the dock going forward. The Vashon Park District welcomes and appreciates all community input and involvement!

Elaine Ott-Rocheford is the executive director of the Vashon Park District.

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