When headed out for trout or salmon this spring, commercial boatmen are taking advantage of progress in Warrenton. One of the commercial docks at the Warrenton Marina, Dock F, has been rebuilt.
For over a decade, Warrenton’s Urban Renewal Agency has been working to encourage economic development through improvement of the city’s infrastructure. The marina’s staff and fishermen were happy recipients.
In the fall of 2016, the old F dock, built over 50 years ago, was demolished. Over the course of the next year, funds from the Urban Renewal Agency were used to rebuild and update the anchorage. It now meets safety standards and can withstand the wear and tear of large commercial vessels. The new dock has 8-foot wide fingers, cushioned fenders and pilings to accommodate boats from 50-90 feet long.
The project was a big undertaking. First, the marina staff had to rehome the dock’s residents. They worked hard to meet the needs of the current boat owners until the project was complete. This took longer than anticipated. “Everyone was really patient and great,” Jane Sweet, Warrenton harbormaster says of the boatmen. The project was first delayed and then extended, but the end result was worth it.
In addition to rehoming seaworthy vessels, the staff also faced the challenge of removing several derelict and sunken boats from the area. A fishing boat, Western Skies and an old shrimp boat, Lily Marlene, were the two culprits. The marina staff worked with Bergerson Construction and Sandridge Construction to remove the boats with funding from Urban Renewal.
The Lily Marlene, a bottom fish trawler measuring 70 feet, was removed using barges and a crane by Bergerson Construction. Western Skies presented the marina staff with more of a challenge, as it wasn’t contracted out. The team formed a plan to oust the vessel, working to keep the cost at a minimum. They collaborated with Sandridge Construction to complete the removal in just two work days. “It was a happy ending for what could have been a terrible environmental or very expensive incident,” Jessica McDonald, marina office assistant, explains.
Almost a year after construction began, F dock was completed. On July 14, 2017 the first boats returned to their slips, happily sailing back into the marina’s newly updated facility. They were soon out again, fishing for crab, shrimp, tuna and other seafood. “The boats fish for pretty much everything,” Jane notes. “Whatever they can get and have a permit for.”
Although the F Dock may be the most exciting upgrade for fishermen, the marina staff are thrilled for the new office. “The old office was a construction trailer that leaned and leaked,” Jane remembers. The new office features space for several staff on site and has four shower stalls for commercial boatmen, some say the best on the coast. The most impactful addition, according to Jane, is heat throughout the building, including the bathroom floors. “A lot more people come in, its busier, there is a lot more traffic,” she explains.
Jane has been working for the City of Warrenton throughout the changes. She started as the assistant harbormaster until about two years ago when she was promoted to the interim, then full-time harbormaster. In her position she monitors boats at the marina, applies for grants, writes up contracts and even cleans bathrooms. “We all kind of do everything,” she says of herself and her staff. Whether the work is out at the Hammond Marina, also under their administration, or at their base camp, the staff is a team.
The Hammond Marina is home to mostly recreational boats and is busier in the summer months. During that time, the marina staff sets up a mobile office at the site for fishermen to pay for docking at the 180 slips. Camping is also allowed at the marina, with a host on site. Hammond Marina may be a site of future improvement for the city. It is a lively summer spot, so future plans may include dredging to increase the slips available for seasonal traffic. Also, this marina isn’t as well protected as the marina in Warrenton, which Sweet says is sheltered from the wear and tear of weather and currents. The Hammond Marina gets a strong east wind in the winter, according to Sweet, and some infrastructure may need to be replaced due to this weathering.
The marina staff is thankful for the dollars invested in their Warrenton workplace. The renovations and improvements were needed and deserved. Tourism and commercial fishing at the marinas are important assets to the community. Support of these city facilities is key to the growing economy in Warrenton. Harbormaster Sweet and her staff appreciate the upgrades daily, looking out at the dock, enjoying the climate- controlled office and looking out into the marina yard. The team saved the mast from Western Skies and have erected it in view. It cements the improvements to the marina and reminds workers, fishermen, and tourists alike, that the industry is a valuable and respected contributor to Warrenton. “The Western Skies was special to all our staff because we worked so well together and played a part in removing that vessel,” says McDonald. “It was a real success story for us.”