After two years of negotiation and fundraising, the purchase of Lakebay Marina from owner Mark Scott closed Dec. 28 for $1.6 million in a joint effort by the Recreational Boating Association of Washington (RBAW) and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Additional funds were raised to ensure the historic facility located on Mayo Cove, next to Penrose State Park, will receive the full restoration needed to preserve it and its 2.8 acres of uplands and tidelands for continued public recreational access.
The bulk of the funding came from a $1.776 million boating facility grant from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. Another $250,000 came from Pierce County, together with a $100,000 allocation from the 2020 state legislature supplemental capital budget and tens of thousands raised by RBAW.
Commissioner of Public Lands Hillary Franz, who oversees DNR, praised the partnership of three critical state agencies — DNR, Washington State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) — that was key to the funding.
DNR and RBAW teamed up to apply for an RCO grant through its boating facilities program.
“It’s a very competitive grant pool and the fact that we came in as the No. 1 ranked project was essential for us to be able to get the significant funding needed,” Franz said. “I love this facility and the value it has for recreational boaters in the South Sound and how the history of this facility is also critical to hold onto.”
Franz said that DNR owns the aquatic tidelands to be leased to RBAW for restoration and management of the facility. State Parks will have a role in managing the uplands for public access.
Bob Wise, who owns marinas on the Olympic Peninsula, recalled looking at Lakebay Marina when it initially came on the market about 10 years ago, but said it was a small property and long neglected. He said he was glad when Scott stepped up to purchase the aging facility and thought to himself, “Hey, brave man.”
Initially neighbors surrounding Lakebay Marina along with the broader Key Peninsula community were glad too, eager to see Scott restore the historic site after his purchase in 2012. Many appreciated the old building on the wharf that Scott turned into a café where people could meet friends, enjoy the scenery along with fish and chips or listen to live music and dance.
But conditions at the marina worsened on multiple fronts as the years passed. The property was cited for serious code and safety violations, a deteriorating situation further complicated by illegal liveaboard tenants.
By February 2019, boats at the marina began sinking, further threatening the environment, the docks and other vessels. (See “County, State and Federal Authorities Take Action at Lakebay Marina,” KP News, May 2019.)
“We called every agency under the sun: the sheriff, the county, the Department of Ecology, DNR, Fish and Wildlife, the Coast Guard, the fire marshal, the health department … you name it,” a neighbor to the marina told KP News under condition of anonymity in March 2019.
Another resident told KP News in April 2019, “We’ve been complaining for years, doing everything they tell us to do but nothing seems to stop Mr. Scott.”
The real game changer came after a local resident reached out directly to Franz via Facebook to say how derelict the facility had become, along with the environmental and public safety impacts.
Franz told KP News she remembered that day well. She immediately called her aquatics team into the office for a briefing on Lakebay Marina and said, “We need to fix this and make it right.”
At that point her team began conversations with Scott to address the issues that were very dangerous.
“It was clear the owner didn’t have the resources to truly repair the facility to make sure it wasn’t a public safety hazard and also that it was environmentally sound for the critical values of the ecosystem there,” Franz said.
DNR began looking for a new owner to help purchase, manage, improve and maintain the marina.
Meanwhile Wise, because he was in the industry, was aware of the problems at Lakebay “but got most of my information about the property by reading the Key Peninsula News.”
Wise was president of RBAW by then and decided to return to the organization’s roots: acquiring properties to put into permanent conservation, as it had done 65 years earlier with Sucia Island Marine State Park in the San Juans. He wondered if Lakebay Marina would be a good place for them to start again.
“I literally thought to myself that would be an easy one to do,” he said. “I got that part wrong. But I think we picked the right property as the one that turned out to be so important to protect.”
DNR is now looking at all facilities on its 2.6 million aquatic acres to take whatever steps are needed to improve or preserve the environment or for public safety and has helped several other marinas secure funding from the state legislature.
“We can use this story as one that shows success,” Franz said. “If it wasn’t for the community engagement this wouldn’t have happened. I’m appreciative the community was engaged and got me engaged and that our agency could actually move this forward in a really positive way.”
Former owner Mark Scott did not respond to requests for comment on this article.
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