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On the (Poulsbo) waterfront

POULSBO — The Port of Poulsbo is putting out a last call for community input regarding a 15.8-acre harbor line expansion. The fourth and final installment of the port community meeting series will allow residents to express their own ideas and concerns about a project that could greatly reshape a major Little Norway connection to Liberty Bay.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow at the port’s multipurpose meeting room. If there’s one thing those on each side of the issue seem to have in common, it’s the hope that a win-win approach to the project is found.

Previous meetings have been held on the topic but drew criticism from some who thought the meetings weren’t widely publicized. This time, port representatives have fulfilled their commitment to notify all possible stakeholders and are hoping for the chance to once again explain their vision of an upgrade they think will benefit the local economy.

The port’s plans include building a shore connection to Net Shed Vista, a .84-acre park along Fjord Drive. The addition would span more than 200 feet and stem from a new floating breakwater set to be installed as part of the expansion. It would allow non-boaters access to the bay and provide a pedestrian path from the new floating dock to shore.

Several residents spoke out at a Nov. 15 meeting against the shore connection, claiming Net Shed Vista as one of Poulsbo’s last open beaches for its citizens to experience the bay in a true, hands-on way.

Port Commissioner Arnie Bockus said the port is hoping tomorrow’s meeting is a well-attended one by yay- and nay-sayers alike. The port’s vision for the contested shore connection is to allow Poulsbo residents without boat access a chance to get onto the water. It is not simply a device to allow large ships to drop off loads of one-time tourists, but is meant to benefit the residents who live here, he said. Benches and a picnic area are planned for the connection.

“I see it as a win-win situation,” Bockus said.

Assuming ownership of the park would also allow the port to have land to its name, and would nullify a lease payment to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that would otherwise be necessary. The DNR gave the port the go-ahead for the project in June 2007. The port has hired a grant writer to help secure more funding.

Councilwoman and liaison to the port Becky Erickson said the meeting will be an important one for citizens to attend, as conversation will focus on the park’s fate. It is symbolic of the town’s history and important to its citizens, and should be respectfully left as a park, she said. She added the most important aspect of the project is it ultimately benefits Poulsbo.

“I see this as a potential win-win if it’s handled correctly,” she said.

Poulsbo resident Gene Fullerton said six generations of his family have visited the park. He and several other area neighbors will be on hand to hear what the port has to say.

“We’re hoping the port can come up with a better scheme of things,” he said. “To have no hands-on beach for future generations ... it’s inconceivable.”

Fullerton also said he hopes a solution beneficial to both sides can be reached. But when it comes to forgoing the park in favor of the shore connection, he said he’s adamant it not be done.

“When it’s gone, there is no more,” he said.

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