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Harbor Commission floats proposal for new city dock

A rough drawing by the commission shows its proposal for the dock. - Graphic courtesy of city of Bainbridge Island Harbor Commission
A rough drawing by the commission shows its proposal for the dock.
— image credit: Graphic courtesy of city of Bainbridge Island Harbor Commission

The Bainbridge Island City Council heard arguments this week for what could be the next battleground of public opinion — what to do with the city’s dock.

At the council’s Wednesday meeting, the Harbor Commission proposed a plan for a new and improved city dock to replace the aging facility at Waterfront Park.

A rough drawing drafted by the commission shows a new wider pier with four additional fingers extending east. The dock would be able to accommodate up to 35 slips for transient boats.

It’s a significant difference than the single pier, built in 1979.

“The needs of the island have changed, the demographics of the island have changed, and the needs of the boating community have changed,” said Harbor Commissioner Bob Wise. “The dock has served its useful life and doesn’t meet the needs of the community at all.”

The new dock, as proposed, bears an estimated cost of $2 million.

Harbor commissioners, however, said the city has much of the money for the project already in-hand.

The commission is requesting $1 million from the funds gained from the Washington State Ferries settlement with the city. The remaining $1 million would be obtained through matching grants.

The current dock is a single pier and stretches 390 feet into Eagle Harbor. Wise said that the city’s dock serves a considerable share of the island’s population, including hundreds of high school rowers and 450 sailors and kayakers.

But the dock isn’t up to par, Wise said. The launch ramp is too short, and the dock itself becomes overcrowded. Its floats are in disrepair while other material is outdated. The creosote pilings are also showing signs of age and are leaking into the harbor.

In addition to citing the deficiencies of the dock, Wise also noted that it is not compliant with regulations for the handicapped and has no water or electrical utilities. He also said that the pump-out station is not ideal.

But the proposed improvements aren’t just for looks. Wise noted the positive economic benefit from having boaters visit the island’s harbor.

The commission conservatively estimates that Winslow businesses could see $720,000 per year in increased revenue from boating families who visit downtown after tying up.

That amount is in addition to the estimated $110,000 per year that the dock could generate on its own through moorage and ramp fees, Wise said.

He further noted that neighboring cities such as Poulsbo see twice as much economic activity than the commission’s estimates.

To gain any of the benefits, the old dock has to go. But it might not be that easy, though some members of the council said they were aware of the poor condition of the city’s dock.

“I find it very uncomfortable to take my grandkids down on the municipal dock,” Councilman Steve Bonkowski said. “I think that a dock will be a part of improvements to Waterfront Park.”

Improvements to the park have yet to be determined. Chris Wierzbicki, community development administrator for the city,  presented a four-step approach on the project.

First will be a community workshop, then a report to the council. Staff will analyze the community and council’s thoughts and once again report back to the council.

The community process found favor on the dais, considering the varied opinions on the dock.

Many community voices came forward expressing support for it.

“When the current dock was constructed it met the needs of the community it served. Bainbridge has grown, whether we like it or not,” said Tom Coble, president of the board for the Bainbridge Island Rowing Club.

The sentiment was echoed by others, but not all.

Rex Oliver, CEO of the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce, said that the chamber does not support the commission’s  proposal.

Instead, he said, it would prefer the city update its Waterfront Park Master Plan before taking any action on the dock.

Councilwoman Debbi Lester also came with a presentation of her own. Lester’s slideshow of the Winslow waterfront showed views from the park of Eagle Harbor, and abutted them with photos from the marina district, implying that the view could be hurt if the project proceeds.

“You can start to see as we add boat parking we start to lose some of the views,” she said.

“It is my hope that we will have a larger community conversation. If the community does decide that we are fine with more boat parking and reducing our views, then we’ll go forward,” Lester said.

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