Try to keep the pier alive | Editorial
July 19, 2011 · Updated 2:27 PM
Construction of a new pier linking downtown Oak Harbor to its waterfront is a project dear to the hearts of many Oak Harbor residents, and for a while there it looked like a new pier was inevitable.
The city landed grant money to pay the large majority of the cost of the uplands project, including a waiting room facility and new restrooms. It seemed like only a matter of time until the pier itself would be funded.
Then delays occurred, the recession hit, costs climbed and the prospect of a municipal pier to serve some future “mosquito” fleet carrying commuters and tourists around Puget Sound started to seem ludicrous. While there were several demonstrations of mosquito fleet boats put on by entrepreneurs, all agreed substantial government subsidies would be needed to make the enterprise financially viable. Today, governments are struggling to keep existing transit systems minimally funded and are in no shape to start subsidizing a fleet of commuter boats.
Last week, the Oak Harbor City Council, succumbing to common sense, put the pier project on hold. But it’s not over. It would be wise to try to spend the grant money available on a smaller uplands project, rather than give it back. And it would be desirable to keep hope alive for a pier sometime in the future.
Commuter/tourism boats need only a modest, covered waiting area for passengers and simple restrooms. A pier in Oak Harbor may never serve regularly scheduled commuter boats, but it could be a popular stopover for tourist boats. More importantly, it would unite downtown Oak Harbor directly with the water, as has not been the case since the Maylor Pier burned in 1966.
Oak Harbor should be synonymous with water-dependent activities. We have the marina and Race Week, but a pier bringing everyday business to town is still a dream worth pursuing. Don’t give up on it now.