A boaters’ advocacy association wants to set a new course for the historic property.
The Recreational Boating Association of Washington and its nonprofit RBAW Marine Parks Conservancy announced Dec. 12 that it has entered into a purchase and sale agreement to acquire Lakebay Marina with the goal of rehabilitating and preserving it in perpetuity as a marine park by donating it to the state.
The reported purchase price of $1.25 million, which remains to be fully funded, has a closing date set of Sept. 2020. As of Dec. 20, $280,000 had been raised, with $250,000 of that coming from the Pierce County 2020-2021 biennial budget thanks to the efforts of Pierce County Councilmember Derek Young (Gig Harbor-Dist. 7).
“We need to show that this is really important to the community and that’s why we made the $250,000 appropriation,” Young said. “Frankly, it wasn’t unanimous but we got there. Rural areas don’t have a lot of job opportunities, but recreation is one of them.”
Bob Wise, president of RBAW, said, “We want this to remain a property that’s open to the public. If we lost another marina, particularly in south Puget Sound, what a tragedy.”
RBAW is a large organization, with over 10,000 individual boaters and 50 clubs promoting the interests of boaters in Washington. Wise said the first objective is to secure funding for purchase and that he is confident people will come forward to donate. The nonprofit RBAW Marine Parks Conservancy organization has already applied to the IRS for a 501(c)(3) tax status and expects approval shortly. After the title transfer, additional money will be raised for improvements.
“It’s a special session, not a budget year for state legislators, so getting a major capital request funded is not the easiest thing in the world,” Young said. “The big push will be down in Olympia and our 26th legislators are really going to have to do some heavy lifting.”
Wise said, “We’ve met with all the representatives of the 26th Legislative District. This is not a political issue. I think they are very supportive.”
“We’re never going to get another opportunity like this.”
After seven years as a director of RBAW, Wise became its president in 2019.
“This year I wanted to start us back on a legacy-building tradition and this is part of a plan to return RBAW to its roots,” he said. This is not the first time the RBAW has purchased property to preserve for public use.
Its parent organization, the Puget Sound Interclub Association, raised $25,000 in the 1950s to purchase part of Sucia Island, the small archipelago north of Orcas Island, in 1960 before it could be developed for private vacation homes. The organization later donated it to Washington for protection as a state marine park.
Wise, of Bainbridge Island, is no stranger to the marina business — he owns four on the Olympic Peninsula — and he kept abreast of the legal troubles of Lakebay Marina owner Mark Scott, who purchased the property in 2012.
“To a large extent the property condition had degraded to a point that it didn’t make financial sense from a profit and loss standpoint,” Wise said. “Mark certainly had some issues with the community, but I do think his vision was right –– it’s a unique property and we need to save stuff like this.
“The good news is I know how to rebuild marinas –– I’m not a novice at this,” he said. “Our goal is actually to fix the property up and provide the funding to do that so we’re not handing the parks department a mess, and so that they can use the revenue from the marina to maintain it going forward for multiple generations.”
Once known as the Washington Cooperative Egg and Poultry Association Lakebay Station, the marina is the last survivor of the mosquito fleet ferry route that operated in South Puget Sound. The marina was listed on the Pierce County Register of Historic Places by unanimous vote of the Pierce County Council on Feb. 12, 2019. (See “Lakebay Marina Awarded Historic Place Status,” KP News, April 2019.)
It was later added to the Washington Heritage Registers on June 28, 2019 (See “Lakebay Marina Cafe Reopens for Now,” KP News, August 2019.)
“It’s going to be an incredible jewel of a property,” Wise said. “We just see boaters flocking to it for literally hundreds of years. It will be perfectly preserved, it’s close to Seattle, close to Tacoma and Olympia. We think it’s going to be a premier boating destination for all of Puget Sound.”
Wise said he was acquainted with Scott, so he picked up the phone and called him and proposed the deal.
“We were able to make something that would work for both parties and I congratulate him on having the foresight to get hold of the property and now transfer it to an organization that’s going to be able to ensure that it lives on in perpetuity,” Wise said.
Mark Scott did not respond to requests for comment.