Port to take over Friends Landing, Sterling Landing

Port of Grays Harbor Commissioners on Tuesday voted to approve the acquisition of Friends Landing and Sterling Landing near Montesano.

Commissioner Chuck Caldwell, who has also served as president of the board governing the parks, abstained from the vote, but commission President Stan Pinnick and Vice-President Jack Thompson voted to have Executive Director Gary Nelson complete the necessary steps to begin transferring the assets. Caldwell asked the Port in April to consider incorporating the parks as part of its properties.

Satsop Business Park’s manager of business development, Alissa Shay, said the impact of absorbing the two parks could range from negative $15,000 annually to positive $15,000, and the Port will only pay closing costs and fees associated with the transfer in order to take ownership of the recreational facilities.

Pinnick was clear during a tour of Friends Landing last month the decision wasn’t really a financial one for commissioners.

“We’re not in the business to make money, we’re in the business to provide opportunity,” Pinnick said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the Port and the county to keep all this going. I’m honored to be asked to keep it going. Part of our charge with tourism is to provide recreation opportunities and bring people into the county.”

Friends Landing is a 152-acre handicap-accessible park with waterfront access to a man-made 32-acre lake. It was founded as a volunteer effort using land donated by the Friend family to Trout Unlimited, a conservation organization, to create space for people with mobility issues to enjoy the outdoors. The final phase, paving the loop around the lake, was completed in 1999.

Visitors can walk and fish for free. Taking a boat on the lake has a suggested donation of $2. RV campers pay $25 a night and tent campers $15 per night. RV campers brought in the lion’s share of the revenue over the past three years, with $33,488 in 2011, $33,347 in 2012 and $31,764 in 2013.

Numbers were not distributed for Sterling Landing, which is 30 acres of undeveloped land with a gravel boat launch on the Wynooche River just outside Montesano.

Future maintenance at Friends Landing may include shoring up the bank where the Chehalis River influences the lake. The supports for the walking bridge are exposed. Tree roots have also warped the paved walking path in a few areas.

Shay also researched the water and sewer facilities associated with Friends Landing, something she said the Port was particularly well-suited to manage into the future.

“Initial research indicates the systems are managed properly,” she reported Tuesday.

The systems are also relatively new, so maintenance is not likely to be a big expense in the near future.

Shay reported the Port will be able to absorb the current employees, a caretaker and a camp host, and will look at getting an easement for the access road into Sterling Landing.

Pinnick was pleased with the proposal and the level of activity so far this year. He and Shay have said the hope is to draw even more visitors with the Port’s marketing abilities.

“My wife and I have driven by the last couple weekends and it’s busy,” Pinnick said.


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