Here’s What I Think About That

Back to Reality for the First Time


A charming waterfront cottage was recently for sale, nestled amongst cedar, Douglas fir, and big leaf maples. The sellers laughed when they told me, “One house hunter fell in love with all the trees they said were far too big to hug. Another thought it would cost too much to cut them all down for a better view.”

Everyone has a personal vision of what makes a place just right.

Some never want the KP to change. Some clamor for a restaurant that serves stacks of pancakes, chicken fried steak, and gravy and biscuits all day long.

Others dream of an indoor facility to exercise with group classes, exercise equipment, and a swimming pool like they have at the Y in Gig Harbor.

Or, heart be still, might Lake Kathryn Village attract a Trader Joe’s to recapture some of those City of Gig Harbor sales tax dollars we pay but that don’t benefit unincorporated rural communities like ours?

I can already hear the rising furor about more traffic. But maybe roundabouts on the KP Highway could help? (Cue the lynch mob!)

If we want more businesses like dine-in restaurants in our designated commercial zones, like Key Center, should we build a sewage treatment plant to make expansion possible? And what about water?

Does the community want to build a new headquarters for its fire department in Key Center?

These are some of the questions, demands, and concerns I hear from readers all the time.

The Department of Natural Resources, specifically the Aquatics Land Restoration Team and its consultants, hosted an open house at the KP Civic Center on April 29 to engage with the community to hear our priorities for the Lakebay Marina Redevelopment Project.

It was the third such outreach since the marina was purchased by the Recreational Boaters Association of Washington and its Marine Park Conservancy in cooperation with DNR, which holds the title to the property. The primary goals are to continue providing opportunities for Washingtonians to enjoy marine access for recreation by rehabilitating the derelict marina, restoring the health of its aquatic and shoreline environment, and ultimately turning it all over to Washington State Parks for management along with its nearby existing Penrose State Park.

Mark Scott and his then-wife, Cindy, purchased Lakebay Marina in 2012 with big dreams. They opened for business six months later, renting moorage and operating a café in the historic building. Pierce County shut both the marina and café down 15 months later due to unsafe conditions. A month later the county barricaded the pier after learning the café continued operating illegally. Years of archived articles and photos are available online, but the vintage café with outdoor seating on the pier we so enjoyed was closed and reopened, repeatedly, depending on the degree of compliance with the county.

It was such a cool place. It reminded many people who’ve spent their lives on Puget Sound of the quintessential look, feel, and smell of our marine history — it was just like this.

In the end, the idyllic dream turned into a nightmare, especially for the residents surrounding Mayo Cove who lived through it all. When RBAW stepped up with DNR to purchase it, hope was renewed.

Roughly 70 interested residents attended the open house in person to share their vision for a fully restored Lakebay Marina — something everyone in our rural community could enjoy and take pride in again.

Everyone on the DNR team acknowledged that the building’s presence on the register of historic places does not guarantee its protection. Still, the nearly unanimous community feedback that it’s important to everyone weighs heavily on their team to find creative ways to save it.

From the perspective of Dr. Bill Roes, the historic building at the end of the pier must be saved. But he also pointed to the small white building above the shore he said was originally built as a dockmaster’s home even earlier. Roes acknowledged a tree recently fell on top of the building and cut it in half, “but tarps were placed, so it’s still sort of preserved.”

According to Roes, a Dr. Johnson lived and practiced medicine in that building where many community elders were born, and “it has potential of becoming a museum, which I’ve taken the nerve to name The Key Peninsula Medical, Musical and Maritime Museum.”

But it was Barbara Rowland of Lakebay who summed up what people want most of all, beyond saving the building: a gathering place with a restaurant and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

“The whole community can use this, not just boaters. So, we’re looking for a four-star resort.”

Mike Rechner, assistant division manager for DNR Aquatics, was tactful with his answers. “Yes, given enough money and time anything’s possible.”

He said that one of the confounding factors in preserving the building is that the pilings holding it up are not all working; 30% or so are not supporting any weight at all and must be replaced.

“We don’t even know if the building could survive that kind of retrofit,” he said.

Peter Herzog of Washington State Parks said his department already has “a half-a-billion dollar backlog of deferred maintenance.”

The hard reality is the state is not in the business of being entrepreneurs. What does the Key Peninsula community want? How can we come close to defining the will of a community? And how will we pay for it?