Yard effort seems wasted

Into the Review’s mailbag this week came these words

of encouragement and support:

“Here is a copy of the letter we recently sent to the governor’s office [regarding the Washington State Ferries maintenance yard in Eagle Harbor]. I hope to see you at the Harbor Commission meeting tomorrow. I’m still astonished the Review has chosen to completely ignore this community-wide land use decision that will affect our island for the next 50 years. Are you guys afraid of WSF, or has the mayor told you to not touch this issue? How can the community take your newspaper seriously when you just sit on the sidelines and ignore such an enormous issue? Our island is getting hosed by the WSF and you do nothing... I find (this) sad and pathetic.”

Thus did Mr. Doug Smith introduce the new political action group “Reclaim Our Waterfront,” dedicated to seeing the state ferry maintenance yard relocated from Bainbridge Island to some other locale. Not your usual “How do you do?”, but then, we don’t suppose Mr. Smith’s group has much of a public relations budget.

As reported elsewhere in this issue, ROW made a presentation to the Bainbridge Harbor Commission this week hoping to drum up support, and came away empty handed. Commissioners instead expressed general support for keeping the ferry yard in place, although they did affirm the need for more public input as the state plans improvements there.

It seems worth asking at this point: Does the Bainbridge Island community really care whether the ferry yard stays or goes? It’s hard to tell how much traction the issue really has with the public. Both Smith and ROW co-founder John Doerschuk made booting out the ferry yard the centerpiece of their recent council bids – at times, it almost seemed like they were running as a ticket – and both lost handily.

And while sitting council members are by no means fans of WSF’s conduct – the agency took a beating of its own when it went before the council last September – several councillors conceded that the maintenance yard’s relocation seems unlikely. Legislators from the 23rd District seem likewise convinced that the state has other issues to be dealing with right now.

ROW is nevertheless petitioning the governor’s office to review WSF’s facility siting decision, seeking a sort of Gregoire ex machina where other channels have come up short. For what it’s worth, a petition drive is under way to rally island citizens to the cause; information is available on the group’s website. They’re committed to the cause, and we wish them luck if for no other reason than to see who else signs on.

But absent a clear and unified statement by Bainbridge city government – something that says, unequivocally, that the island wants WSF to pack up and go – ROW’s effort is starting to look like wasted energy. The more useful goal would seem to be using the city’s power as permitting authority to bring WSF to terms, and force the agency to become, finally, a

good-faith player with our community in facility planning.

The agency has for years thumbed its nose at islanders over improved pedestrian access at the ferry terminal and setting aside room for a private boat haulout facility in a corner of the maintenance yard, only recently coming round to express any contrition. Getting Washington State Ferries to heed islanders’

wishes on those projects would go a long way toward reclaiming the waterfront, and seems a more plausible goal.

If that leaves us on the sidelines, we’re not the only players out of the game.

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