The concrete pilings that sit under the decking at the Longbranch Improvement Club Marina are old and in disrepair. Pierce County is responsible for the maintenance of the pilings, but county officials say it doesn’t have the money for the repairs. Many boaters enjoy the Longbranch Improvement Club’s Marina and Wharf all year, and especially during summer months. Photo courtesy Faith Rhodes

Pierce County intends to condemn the concrete pilings that support the pier at the Longbranch Marina. The county records and notification letter refer to this pier and dock collectively as the “Longbranch Wharf.”

The Longbranch Improvement Club owns the Longbranch Marina and is responsible for the maintenance and repairs of the deck over the pilings, the stairs, ramps, floating docks, utilities, and also controls use by the public and LIC members. However, Pierce County is responsible for the pilings.

According to a document titled “Grant of Easement” which was executed in December of 1991, Pierce County’s sole responsibility is the repair and replacement of the concrete piles and beams which support the decking (over the pilings) which connects between the roadway and the floating docks.

David Wickland, the Dock Chair for the LIC said “The County has never performed any maintenance or made any repairs to the pilings. The concrete is now crumbling and the rebar is exposed.”

According to that agreement, “If Pierce County should fail to make the necessary repairs, the club may elect to perform the required repairs,” presumably at LIC’s expense.

If repairs are not made, then the agreement sates: “Should the county conclude, at its sole discretion and judgment, that said concrete pilings and beams have become not safe for use by members of the club or public, and that it should not repair or replace said structures, this easement shall be terminated upon written notice of at least ninety (90) days to the club.”

Cancelling the agreement will leave the thousands of boaters and residents of south Key Peninsula no means to access their boats, the marina, or the water except by boat.  Cancelling the agreement would also eliminate access to utilities (water and electricity) for the marina.

County Councilmember Terry Lee who was out of state responded by email, and stated he requested that Pierce County Public Works agree to a 90-day continuance.
Patricia Muchmore, President of the LIC, acknowledged that LIC members had not yet been informed of the threat of condemnation, despite it being a continuing topic of discussion with the County for several years.

A meeting was held Feb.19 for a free-flowing dialogue between LIC Board Members and Pierce County Public Works, led by County Engineer Brian Stacy. Results of that meeting were not yet available by press time.

Documents in the County files show that the “wharf” had existed as a popular recreation and marine transport hub since at least 1900, possibly significantly longer. Historical records refer to the “Mosquito Fleet” docking at Longbranch in the early history of Washington state.

Michael and Denese Hays own the site of the old Longbranch Merchantile across the road from the Marina. They expect to rebuild and reopen the Merchantile as soon as the economy recovers. Michael Hays said, “I have no problem with moving the ramp and stairs accessing the Marina dock over to our property, just to the north of the existing pier.”

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