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Port sails into boating season with capital priorities

The Port of Poulsbo is ready for a busy boating season. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
The Port of Poulsbo is ready for a busy boating season.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

POULSBO — The Port of Poulsbo opened with a mild start to the boating season this weekend.

But with major capital projects in the works, the year isn’t likely to stay that way. Port Commissioner Arne Bockus said the port is putting an emphasis on increasing funding for some much-needed improvements, including a new breakwater.

But while commissioners crunch the numbers to make the breakwater replacement possible, Port Manager Kirk Stickels said the marina is ready and awaiting visitors.

“This time of year it often follows the weather pattern,” he said. Though the so-so weather at last week’s end led to a mediocre start at the port, “by mid-day Saturday we started to fill up real good.”

A handful of boaters stayed through to Monday, he said.

Local events, such as Viking Fest and Third of July, also affect the number of visitors the port sees, he said. But this year, both Stickels and Bockus said gasoline prices should have a say as well.

With the widespread gas crunch, Bockus said he’s expecting Poulsbo to be a bigger destination point than usual. Most likely, it will be a less expensive option than other typical hot spots.

Gas at the port right now is running $4 per gallon, $4.20 for a gallon of diesel. Stickels said compared to prices in Canada and in other areas around Puget Sound, Poulsbo and other nearby ports are less expensive. While he thinks the number of overnight boat stays — “boat nights” — will probably remain the same, the difference could be seen, he said, in the size of vessels staying over.

Last year, the port had 7,578 boat nights.

Still, port commissioners are working toward replacing the current breakwater with a floating one.

“If we were to have a major storm,” Bockus said, “it would take that breakwater right out.”

The breakwater protects the boats, shoreline and prevents flooding. The port is now in the process of applying for grants and talking with organizations that may be able to help fund the project.

Along with a replacement of the breakwater, which will decrease buildup in the bay, Bockus said the port is also looking to replace its creosote pilings with a fewer amount of steel ones to cut down bay contamination. The port is also hoping to be granted control over Net Shed Park, a decision Bockus said is still in the hands of the city. If the port takes over that land, its annual payments to the Department of Natural Resources will be greatly decreased. Commissioners have released plans for a shoreline connection from the park — a project many citizens have stood against. Despite arguments on either side, Bockus said due to funding, that project isn’t currently a priority.

But what is at the helm for the start of the boating season is the weather. It’s a final key to the tourist industry that Stickels said is a great partnership between the port and downtown business owners.

“We’re all set,” he said. “We’re just waitin’ on the weather now.”

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