Following a year of contentious conversations between the Port of Port Townsend and the community of Quilcene centered on the Herb Beck Marina, port executive director Eron Berg …
Following a year of contentious conversations between the Port of Port Townsend and the community of Quilcene centered on the Herb Beck Marina, port executive director Eron Berg and deputy director Eric Toews agreed to meet Quilcene where they were.
A recent meeting at the Quilcene Community Center drew about 30 concerned citizens. In opening statements, Toews said it was time to “stop talking and start listening” to Quilcene residents.
“I’m delighted to be here tonight,” Berg said, adding that the port agreed that hearing directly from invested individuals was important.
Sometimes committees act as a filter instead of a magnifier, he added.
“I don’t think we have any objections to the Linger Longer [Advisory] Committee continuing to meet and offer suggestions,” Berg said, an about-face from previous statements where he recommended the port cease working with the committee, after a memo provided by the committee suggested they would hire a lawyer after their continuing concerns about the Herb Beck Marina.
Participants sat at tables arranged in a circle surrounding the room. They introduced themselves and provided context for their presence at the meeting. Notable was a cluster of five relatives Toews referred to as “the Brotherton camp,” with Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Brotherton and multiple members of his family represented.
Chris Llewellyn, owner of Serendipity Farm in Quilcene, said during her introduction that after 20 years in the area, she sees Linger Longer Beach as “the heartbeat of Quilcene.”
Jim Hudson, a 35-year resident, said, “I’m just surprised at how we got here,” he said. “The port has let things go until there’s a firestorm.”
Linda Cupp, who was born and raised in Quilcene, is a proud yacht club member.
“I need that beach,” she said simply.
Ron Jones, perhaps anticipating some pushback, said he has family who are employed by Pacific Seafoods, and implored the audience not to “bad-mouth” his family.
A simple agenda was passed to participants, but the meeting seemed very much in Quilcene’s hands.
Beginning in January, the port has been in conversation with Quilcene residents about Herb Beck Marina, dubbing the project, “Quilcene Outreach: 2021.” Special meetings, a questionnaire, and in-person interviews with Jeannie McMacken, a communications consultant for the port, culminated in a handout circulated at the meeting. The document stated that seven key themes emerged from information gathered by port officials during the year.
“Passion” led the list, followed by skepticism, environment, economy, privatization, neglect (which Toews said was the most registered concern), and health and safety.
The Herb Beck Marina is not the only port-owned facility that is suffering, Berg said, adding that several of the Port Townsend docks hadn’t been replaced since the 1960s.
“Circumstances have changed dramatically in the past three years,” Toews said.
In addition to shifts in administration – there’s a focus on paying off port debt by 2027 (currently being paid off by property tax monies of approximately $1 million annually) and increased taxes – projects take a great deal of time to get underway.
While many attendees seemed stuck on specific projects, the most mentioned was dredging the marina for greater access for different types of boats.
To Cupp, the reticence of the port to dredge was suspect.
“Sounds like you don’t even want the marina there,” she said.
Clayton White, a 20-year resident seemed exasperated.
“Put down a project on paper, just one,” he asked of port officials.
Linda Herzog said that dredging really stands for a “huge, huge, piece of trust-building.”
“I don’t see any doors as closed, in my mind,” Berg said.
Berg explained that even if the go-ahead for dredging was given immediately, it would be at least a year or two until a project would be underway.
The process would involve a hydrographic survey, applying for multiple permits, undertaking an environmental review, and getting a project bid.
Jones, however, was focused on the future.
“We don’t have time to worry about when things went [wrong],” he said, impassioned. “What can we do now?”
“The big picture plan is exactly what I’m looking for,” Berg said
General access to marina facilities was another topic that drew some strong feelings.
Brinnon resident and self-described “Bainbridge Island refugee” Beth Stern said she was in support of getting the campground into a more workable state, and perhaps bringing in additional income through camping fees.
“It’s just lingering, longer,” she said of chronic septic system issues.
Toews noted the campground had never been permitted by the county, and would require a conditional use permit in order to go ahead with using the grounds for more campers.
“We’re on board with that,” he added.
There were numerous complaints about the closure of the marina restrooms to the public.
Berg and Toews said that a $100 annual ramp pass guaranteed access to the restroom and shower. They further pointed out that a portable restroom was available.
The community was not impressed.
Several people stated that the beach was beloved by the community, and that access to restrooms would keep people from using the surrounding area as an outdoor toilet.
Denise Miller favored a modern approach, suggesting that perhaps access codes for the restrooms could be sent online after purchase to unlock amenities.
The closure of the fuel dock was also brought up.
Berg said permitting had been dropped as the fueling station was deemed an environmental liability without a full-time employee to oversee it; Towes said a job position for a marina employee had been posted and has not yet been filled.
Several members of the Quilcene Yacht Club were present to share their concerns.
While members have done much to improve the grounds and building, Toews said the club’s lease is in holdover status, and would “not best please [the] state auditor if they laid eyes on it,” he added.
“The current rent is astonishingly low,” Toews explained.
While theories and topics varied widely, some immediate projects were recommended as a place to start.
Security, repairing the dock, landscaping, parking, and addressing public facilities topped the list during the night, and were originally compiled by the Linger Longer Advisory Committee.
Llewellyn pointed out that the Quilcene district has more waterfront that any of the other districts, and thus pays more taxes.
“We’re not the step-child of Jefferson County,” she said, adding that the port needs to be accountable to Quilcene.
Both Berg and Toews said the marina needed to break even financially, at least.
“That’s probably not a crazy idea, treading water,” Berg said.
He agreed to have a representative give a synopsis of the meeting at the next regular port meeting, scheduled for Nov. 23.
Heather Burns asked about the plan for successive meetings with the community.
Various ideas were expressed, from breakout groups to a format similar to the current meeting.
“Should we do this again?” Berg asked the crowd, after reminding them that a year ago, the discussion had been about whether or not to close Herb Beck Marina permanently.
The agreement seemed unanimous.
The next public gathering was set for Tuesday, Dec. 7.
There was a hearty round of applause as the meeting came to a close.
“I thought we were pretty well-behaved,” White said as the meeting dispersed.
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