The Longbranch Improvement Club and its charitable fundraising arm, the Longbranch Foundation, are out to raise nearly a quarter of a million dollars to pay for renovations and upgrades to the Longbranch Marina mandated by the Department of Natural Resources, which manages the water environment under the marina.
The LIC owns the marina, but the improvements are required under the terms of the new DNR lease.
“There’s no dispute with the DNR about doing it,” said Clark Van Bogart, president of the foundation and vice president of the LIC. “For the sake of the water, we just need help to do it. It’s real simple.”
The LIC and the foundation have applied for a grant from the state for $247,850. As of press time, the grant had been included in the proposed 2017-19 state House budget by 26th Legislative District representatives Michelle Caldier and Jesse Young. Sen. Jan Angel is supporting it in the state Senate and U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer is also in favor.
“What we put in for with the grant application are three things, and we’re standing on No. 1,” Van Bogart said, referring to the wooden docks of the marina. “It has exposed Styrofoam or tires for floatation and it blocks sunlight. We want to upgrade to the anti-slip plastic grid we used on the new wharf and landing.”
The new deck would allows 60 percent more light to penetrate to the water, which is better for the environment, but it’s expensive. “These two sheets of 4 x 12 rough surface are $1,000,” Van Bogart said.
The LIC took over the original mosquito fleet ferry float at Longbranch after it was abandoned by Pierce County in the 1950s and later began operating the marina at the behest of the county, which lacked the funds to do so, said Van Bogart. Since then, nearly all work at the marina has been done with volunteer labor and donated or borrowed funds. Since 2010, the marina has invested more than $312,000 on repairs and improvements, including the new wharf connecting the parking area to the dock.
“It was a county wharf,” Van Bogart said. “They condemned it but they didn’t have the money to replace it. We spent $260,000 on the new one and in exchange they gave us a perpetual lease with only one condition: that we continue to provide public access.”
About 35 percent of the marina is dedicated to guest moorage, Van Bogart said. This, in turn, has generated nearly 45 percent of the marina revenue over the past few years.
If the state grant is approved, it will pay for a new dock and floatation, replacement of the dinghy dock for public access and construction of three new finger piers. The LIC has already replaced six creosote pilings with galvanized steel and removed five defunct boathouses.
“A 26-foot slip with a permanent tenant is almost $2,000 a year,” Van Bogart said. “If we have three new finger piers, that’s $12,000 annually. If we get them engineered, I think we can build them with volunteer labor.”
The LIC has been encouraging its members to support the grant in the Legislature and the foundation is seeking alternative funding as well.
“It’s conceivable that we only get a portion of the grant, but any help will jump-start the process and that’s what we’re after,” Van Bogart said. “It’s going to take us six or seven years just to do that first dock section, but we’re as dedicated to keeping Filucy Bay clean of pollution as the DNR. Probably more so.”