County gives up on dock at Lighthouse Marine Park

Those idyllic days of fishing on the dock at Lighthouse Marine Park are a thing of the past, it seems. Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws and county parks director Michael McFarlane confirmed that the county does not intend to repair and re-install the dock this spring despite previous assurances by Louws that the county was going to give it one more college try.

The confirmation came in emails this week to Point Roberts Taxpayers Association president Mark Robbins and the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) after Robbins questioned conflicting accounts of the county’s intentions. County parks design and development supervisor Rod Lamb had discussed plans for the dock at the PRCAC’s meeting in February but various attendees had different interpretations of the county’s direction. Some thought the county was going to repair the damaged dock and put it back in the water while others thought it was already a goner. Robbins’ emails to all and sundry resulted in the bad news being delivered straight from the horses’ mouths.

Last July, the dock was taken out after “stress cracking” was discovered throughout the structure, according to Lamb. “This was the third time it was in the water,” he confirmed, as reported in the September 2018 issue of the All Point Bulletin.

The dock was originally launched in 2015 to replace the old wooden dock that was removed from service in 2009. It failed after a month in the water and the county spent $27,000 in materials to repair it, sharing the rest of the costs with the dock manufacturer and installer. It was back in the water in mid-2016 and survived the 2017 season before the most recent damage caused the county to pull it for safety reasons.

In McFarlane’s email to Robbins, he explained that “after thoroughly examining the amount and type of damage suffered by the dock last season, a recommendation was made to the executive and county council that the dock not be installed at the park.” The decision, he said, “was not made lightly and only after lengthy discussions with the project engineer. While the damage could be repaired for around $50,000, the consensus was that the severity of the site conditions would likely result in additional stress damage … The exposed site, constant pounding by the surf and the lighter weight and grounding restraints are contributing to the damage. The recommendation was made in the interest of public safety and the high probability that we’ll continue to see major failures far beyond what would be considered normal maintenance.” McFarlane included a video showing the dock in high wave action to illustrate the conditions and safety concerns presented.

Robbins had questioned the decision as Louws had previously told the former chair of PRCAC, Jeff Christopher, that the county would give the dock one more shot. In his email to Robbins, PRCAC and others, Louws wrote, “I remember having the discussion with Jeff related to the dock and barring any major issues I committed to giving it one more attempt. After review of the costs, the proposed fix, and the likelihood of incur*ring the same challenges (costs) with the dock due to our inability through permitting to make it stronger, I agree with the recommendation of the parks department to remove [it] from Lighthouse Marine Park.

“As designed and permitted, it has not proven to be a viable system. I have made the decision with the council’s knowledge to put an end to what I am convinced would be a short-lived $50,000 repair. I’m sure this is disappointing to those who use the facility, as other alternatives are not as convenient, but I cannot in good conscience spend the money knowing that it would not solve the problem,” Louws wrote.

In response, Robbins expressed dissatisfaction with the county’s decision. “Speaking on behalf of the Point Roberts Taxpayers Association (PRTA), which has taken a special but unsuccessful interest in preserving and enhancing the assets at Lighthouse Marine Park in particular, in view of its importance to our tourist economy and our support of appropriate economic development in Point Roberts, this reversal on the part of the county is extremely disappointing. We have watched the removal of the whale watching tower, orca center, about 75 percent of the boardwalk, a six-year delay in replacing the old dock (which survived nicely for 16 years), failed installation of a flawed “new and improved” dock design, and reversal of support for a proper lighthouse in the park even if all construction costs could be covered by private and grant funding,” Robbins wrote.

“Now we are told that there will not be a dock for campers, visitors, and residents to enjoy for the first time in memory,” Robbins concluded.

The county intends to repair the dock and use it at another park facility elsewhere in the county.

  1. Haha didn’t see that one coming …

  2. Mark Robbins said it all when he gave a recap of what we have lost in Point Roberts over the years.
    Why did the Orca Centre have to close? Why did the boardwalk have to shrink? Why can’t we put back a pier as they had before or just put back a wood dock again? I am not a permanent resident but I have been enjoying Point Roberts since I was a kid when my family brought their small boat and we launched and spent our days at Lighthouse – such great memories! – and it saddens me when others including my kids won’t be able to experience all of what Point Roberts used to have.
    As a taxpayer, we just never seem to get a lot of bang for our buck. Point Roberts seems to get the short end of the stick these days and that’s too bad because it really is a jewel.

  3. There is some history that a schooner could have protected moorage and turn around in the slew area before the dike was built. The marina was built in part to have access for safe moorage. Can we use some of the transportation funds to have a community dock inside the marina for small boats under 20 feet to tie bow first to save space. This would help them have safe moorage and easy access instead of having to take their boats out each day on a ramp that is not maintained. A user pay donation box could be put on the community dock inside the marina to help pay for community dock maintenance like other coastal community docks. This would help small boaters that can’t afford a 30-foot slip to moor their 10- or 12-foot dingy that they like to sail or row. It would help build a small boating community again that once existed years ago. A long term plan for the Lighthouse Dock could be to allocate the $50,000 fixing fund to start a fund that would build a proper pier with seasonal floating dock at the end that works well in most coastal Salish sea locations. This would help bridge the surf zone. A pier and dock is important to our community with a long history of using boats for transportation and access. In an emergency it is even more important. We have had the airport closed because of soggy soils and the marina inaccessible due to wind direction or maintenance and dredging. A west side light house dock could be our only access in an emergency or earthquake situation. There was once a mail boat that came here. Roberts town was accessed by boat. Docks and safe maintained boat ramps are vital to our community. Let’s bring our piers back. We once had two long surviving west side piers. A lighthouse pier has always been our solution, not a lake dock.

  4. Victoria Robertson March 21, 2019, 6:31 pm

    This is not acceptable. That dock is ours. We need to figure it out!

  5. Michele Wallis March 21, 2019, 6:14 pm

    That last part really gets me… The county intends to repair the dock and use it elsewhere.

  6. It’s not park land, unfortunately. It is a public access easement on marina property and does not include vehicle access. The easement was granted to the county as part of the approval process when the marina was first built and Edwards Drive was cut in two by the harbor mouth. The paths around the marina are also part of the public access easement as is the path in front of the marina condos. There is also a 3.5 acre public recreation easement on the land across from the west side of the marina between it and the housing development; basically, where the dredged material from the harbor mouth was deposited. Pat Grubb

  7. There a sheltered location on park land on the south side of the marina that could be used for a dock and boat launch. Ask Armene Belless who knows exactly where it is.


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