Down at the Port: Under new management

It’s hard to believe that it has been five and a half years since the first issue of Down at the Port appeared in the Kingston Community News. It has been a lot of fun and I hope that it has given you a better insight into what happens in our little corner of the world. On the first Monday in June, I went down to the County Auditor’s office and signed up to run once again for commissioner in this great little port. I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone by.

Last month, after a very exhaustive task of pouring over some 87 resumes and conducting two days of interviews, the Port hired a new harbor master. Willis Hill brings a lifetime of public service, business ownership and genuine personal devotion to doing a good job to the port. You will be seeing him around the marina and we will be bringing him around to some of the service clubs and other groups in town for introductions. Willis lives in Port Orchard, but is planning to make the move up here in the near future. Welcome aboard Willis.

Willis’ position as Harbor Master will be somewhat different than the job Mike Bookey was doing for us. As you know Bookey was involved in many issues beyond the boundaries of our port district. The new harbor master’s focus will be in the day to day operation of the port. That in itself is a very demanding task.

In the meantime the Port is searching for an individual to hire as a short-term personal service contractor to keep the focus and progress on our eventual water transit service between Kingston and Seattle. This individual will deal with the state, the Federal Department of Transportation, King County, Seattle Metro and many other entities that will eventually be our partners in the service. Once the water transit is up and running, the port commissioners will probably restructure the leadership team and hire an executive director to manage the ferry service and serve as overall director of all activities within the port.

The Fourth of July is upon us. This year promises to once again be a great one. All of the volunteers have been working hard to get it all together. I have heard, though, that funding is kind of tight. If you could put another buck or two in those jars, it would surely help out. With the Ivar’s fireworks show being cancelled in Seattle, many of the West Sound communities are expecting more attendance at their events.

Last month I advised everyone that the North Beach access will be closed from July 5 for about six weeks to repair a rock wall that holds up the beach trail and the roadway that vehicles use to exit the incoming ferries. It was damaged in a severe storm several years ago. The Federal Emergency Management Administration is leading the project to fix it. Unfortunately this closure will come at the height of our summer season, but due to some rules and laws designed to keep our fish and rare birds healthy, there are only a couple of windows of work opportunity available for waterside work. July to September is the only available time frame that works for this project due to tide schedules and weather predictions.

Arness Park or “The Slough” near the north end of South Kingston Road is a great place to enjoy the beach. At low tide, we are offered several acres of tide flats to explore. We must all keep in mind, however, that the tidelands directly in front of private homes along the cove are not public beaches. Although most home owners do not mind innocent transit of people walking by their beach front homes, you should not stop and hold Frisbee tournaments or other games on their property. Arness Park has plenty of room for such activities. Animal waste on the tide flats is also a no-no. Dogs love to run and chase things on the beach, but when nature calls, they need to be cleaned up after. Bags are available down at the port and other places to help you with these issues. As always, please take care of your own litter when visiting any of our parks.

Speaking of parks, how do you like the way Mike Wallace Park is shaping up? When the handrails for the ramp and stairs arrive and are installed, the performing arts stage will be ready to host entertainment for us and our visitors for many years to come. The new grass in the area between the parking lot and the boat haven has grown in very nicely and will soon be ready for picnics and general relaxing. Gasworks Park has nothing on us! I bet you thought that that Kayak Facility was something that would never get here. Well, it is here and it looks pretty neat tied up down at “A” Dock. A few finishing touches on that and it will also be ready for use.

The improvements you see in the park are the result of an updated masterplan we undertook with a group of local volunteers five years ago They helped the commission look into the future and see what people around here wanted. It started with a survey to everyone in the port district. The overwhelming majority of people who responded wanted us to have more activities in the port. Working with our volunteer group, we came up with the plan that has put all of these changes into place.

The Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce and a few other groups have done their share in organizing the various activities and events that you can enjoy here. These include; The weekly Kingston Farmer’s Market; Concerts on the Cove each Saturday in August; Kitsap Arts and Crafts Festival; Dog Agility Day; Kites over Kingston; Paddle Kitsap; and of course the Fourth of July. Keep an eye out for announcements and posters dealing with each of these as it looks like I am getting close to the edge of the paper for this month.

Until next month, I hope to see you around town enjoying our great summer weather. As always, thanks for taking time to read this stuff. I hope you found something useful.

Pete DeBoer is a Port of Kingston Commissioner. You can send comments to him at