One of the shoreline restoration plans includes a pocket beach at Catalina Park in Oak Harbor, and the gazebo would need to be relocated. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

One of the shoreline restoration plans includes a pocket beach at Catalina Park in Oak Harbor, and the gazebo would need to be relocated. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Council hears Oak Harbor Marina restoration options

Some big changes may be coming to Catalina Park and other areas.

Oak Harbor’s shoreline may be the site of environmental restoration efforts that include a new pocket beach at Catalina Park, according to a feasibility study presented to city council members last month.

Anna Toledo from the Island County Marine Resources Committee presented several options for environmental restoration work on the shoreline for council members to choose from.

Options include various efforts such as re-stacking shoreline armor in its same place — the rocks built up on the water’s edge — to removing the armor and creating a gradual slope with natural vegetation and new pocket beaches.

A feasibility study researched efforts to maintain bank stabilization, improve beach access, minimize habitat disruption for forage fish and reduce pollutant runoff in stormwater, among other objectives.

The study separated the shoreline into sections beginning at Catalina Park on the south to Navy property.

Toledo focused on the area from Catalina Park to the city’s boat ramp.

Some of the most visible changes would be seen at Catalina Park because options include the creation of a pocket beach. In one option, shoreline armor would be removed and a sloped beach would be put in its place.

The beach would cut into where the current gazebo sits and the structure would be moved along with a utility corridor there, Toledo said.

The benefits of the pocket beach would be increased beach access, habitat improvement for forage fish and bank stabilization, Toledo explained. Council members could also choose to simply re-stack the existing armor and add a fish mix material on the slope.

The second area for improvement would be the shoreline in front of the parking lot at the marina.

Restoration efforts there are limited because of the parking lot and do not include full shoreline armor removal.

Restoration efforts there could include leaving the shoreline armor in its place, or setting it slightly back. Although it would impact the parking lot, Harbormaster Chris Sublet said parking capacity could be made up elsewhere.

Stormwater runoff improvements would include the installation of bioretention cells — basically, native plantings that naturally filter runoff before it trickles into the harbor.

The minimum option would be to add native plantings along the shoreline next to the parking lot, but more could be added to Catalina Park.

“There is very little filtration that happens before that water outflows into the bay,” Toledo said of the area’s current state.

The third area centers on the boat ramp.

Toledo said the boat ramp is quite large and has a shallow slope because it was originally built for seaplanes.

Council members could choose to do nothing, or they could reduce its footprint by about 25 percent and increase the slope.

The modifications would prevent vehicles and boat trailers from having to back up into the water, which Toledo said benefits both the water and vehicles.

Depending on what council members choose, the shoreline restoration project could cost $390,000 for minimum improvements up to $1 million for full restoration efforts.

Toledo said the $1 million option would be the most likely to receive grant funding. She said staff have already sent out some grant applications for early stages of the project.

Mayor pro-tem Beth Munns said she thought the shoreline was an important feature of the city and wanted to see the full project go forward.

“I would really like to see the whole project go through,” Munns said. “It’s an asset that you can’t get back once it’s lost.”

The next step is for city council members to vote for one of the plans to move forward at their meeting in January.

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