Longbranch Improvement Club

Sara Thompson Clark Van Bogart was spotted bringing in ground cover for the LIC trail system. Photo courtesy of Larry Bingham

The Longbranch Improvement Club (LIC) has a proud history as a positive force in the community. Although many associate it primarily with the Longbranch Marina, its first commitment was to education. And the commitment to students on the Key Peninsula continues to this day. As the LIC approaches its centennial, Gayle Brewer, the club president, said, “We want to let people know what we do and to expand our presence in the community.”

The story of the LIC reflects that of the Key Peninsula — schools, farming, boating and even baseball infuse its history.

The LIC incorporated in 1921 “to encourage any activity for the betterment of schools, homemaking, roads, marketing, dairy, poultry and all its branches” and purchased 10 acres of land just before the first paved county road was completed.

According to organizers, baseball, which was an especially popular way to socialize-influenced the first use of those 10 acres — a field and grandstand provided a home for the Longbranch team. Three acres were donated to build a two-room schoolhouse.

The WPA built the timbered a-frame gymnasium next to the schoolhouse, and that building now serves as the home of the LIC. It was upgraded in 1956 with the addition of kitchen facilities and a wooden floor, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

The Longbranch Marina history is as intertwined in the LIC story as the familiar timber, concrete and stone structure, and goes back more than a century.

In 1885 a wharf was built in Longbranch to serve South Puget Sound. The Mosquito Fleet transported families and agricultural products. A ferry, the Elk, was commissioned and served until the late 1930s.

When Pierce County refused to lease the ferry dock to a private for-profit venture, the LIC came to the rescue. County engineers supplied plans and LIC member provided the lumber, labor and funding to build a floating pier that was installed in 1959. More recently, when the wharf deteriorated, Pierce County had plans but no funding to replace it. The LIC stepped in, raising the necessary money through donations and loans.

“This is a remote marine community and people value the beauty and quiet of Filucy Bay. Originally, providing and maintaining the marina was not a business plan —it just happened,” said Brewer.

One-third of the floating dock is dedicated to public guest moorage. Made available on a first-come, first-served basis for day and overnight users. Boaters have access to fresh water, garbage disposal and restrooms, all at no cost to taxpayers. “The lack of amenities is in some ways a blessing,” said Clark Van Bogart, club vice president. “Boaters really value the incredible setting and its peace and quiet.”

The LIC is a heterogeneous group — some are very focused on the water, and others not at all.  They rally around the needs of the building as they come up — be it replacing the septic system, updating the kitchen or establishing the nature trail just behind the building that is now open to everyone.

In talking about the activities of the LIC, what excited Brewer, Van Bogart and events chair, Delia McGinnis, was the outreach to the schools and students.

Every year, in collaboration with the Girl Scouts and the schools, they host Trunk or Treat — a Halloween event with treats and activities for KP families. Kids ‘N Christmas, in conjunction with Toys for Tots, provides gifts for every child, dinner and crafts tables for the kids to make presents for their parents.

“One mother came up to me last year,” said McGinnis, “and said they had been coming for eight years, commenting, ‘You have no idea how much this has meant to us.’”

In addition, the LIC offers scholarships to grade-school students to attend summer camp and scholarships to Peninsula High students who started their education at Evergreen.

Other events are geared to building community spirit. The Fiber Arts Fair is coordinated with the KP Farm Tour. Spaghetti feeds and pancake breakfasts are times for friends to gather and enjoy good company. And Memorial Day and Labor Day dances provide a great time for everyone as well as a chance to raise funds.

New members are welcome. The fee for membership is just $25 single, $40 family, and each member is asked to attend at least three member meetings a year and to contribute 15 hours of volunteer service.

For information, visit longbranchimprovementclub.org.