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‘Build the dock.’ Canoe and kayak team presses Gig Harbor for new facility at Ancich Park

The ribbon-cutting ceremony at Ancich Park on Saturday, March 23, 2019. Various community members, including members of the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team, were in attendance.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony at Ancich Park on Saturday, March 23, 2019. Various community members, including members of the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team, were in attendance. Courtesy

About 40 members of the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team showed up to the City Council meeting on May 13 with one very clear message: Build the dock.

The statement was shown on matching T-shirts from every member of the team. A round of applause began when Mayor Kit Kuhn took off his blazer to reveal he, too, was wearing a “Build the Dock” T-shirt.

The message is in reference to Ancich Park, a waterfront area with no dock or flotation device to get canoe and kayak users into the water.

The total cost to build the dock is estimated to be around $1.3 million to $1.5 million.

Back in December 2017, the previous City Council and mayor decided to commit to fund the dock with help from the canoe and kayak team. The racing team set a goal to raise $500,000 for the dock, with the city saying it would help raise the rest.

The problem? Past council did not specify where the money would come from, which ultimately pushed that decision on present council.

Aaron Huston is head coach of The Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team. Huston said the team began working on environmental permitting, planning and designing in order to conduct a capital campaign to offset the cost of the city for the dock and raise the $500,000 needed. He said the team put in $70,000 to $80,000 toward this project.

Huston said a few months ago he found out money to build the dock was not included in the 2019 city budget.

“To find out the city had no plans to fund the dock left us in a really bad spot because it’s hard to have a capital campaign to ask people to donate money when there is no guarantee the target will be reached or the city will end up funding their share of it,” Huston said.

Previous council agreed 60 percent of the boat storage at the park would be used by the canoe and kayak team, and 40 percent of storage would be used for general public.

Huston said the agreement means the dock benefits not only the racing team but the community as a whole.

“It’s not just important for our team but the community at large,” Huston said. “There’s a beautiful waterfront park there and is supposed to be for human-powered watercraft, and with no dock there is a really steep concrete stairwell to the mud which represents a safety hazard for our team and the community. The park isn’t usable as intended without a dock structure.”

Where the city’s share of the money would come from is still a problem.

Kuhn said there is at least $200,000 from park impact fees and $200,000 in tourism money which could be used for building the dock.

“All the money does not need to be raised at the same time,” Kuhn said. “A lot of the dock won’t even start to be built until 2020. If we commit to the kayakers we will put money in, then we won’t need to use that $900,000 in the next six months. We would be needing some of that money, but it gives us time to raise the other money, and I hope to raise it in the 2020 city budget or in fundraising ourselves.”

Kuhn said he feels a responsibility for city to honor the lease put in place by last council and to finish the project.

“If you are going to build it, then finish it,” Kuhn said.

A study session will be held within the next two weeks to give the kayak and canoe team a chance to answer any questions council may have.

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