Dreams for Seaport Landing sparked fireworks of enthusiasm among the crowd gathered for the first Fourth of July celebration at the new site for the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain.
Visitors young and older came up with a variety of visions for the 38-acre site that was formerly a Weyerhaeuser Sawmill and includes 14 acres of riverfront land.
Those who saw nature preserves, kayak landings, indoor and outdoor museums, marine services, ships crew accommodations and shipwright facilities in their mind’s eye were reflecting an already-proposed master plan. Others could squint and see amusement and water parks, rhythm and blues concerts, paddle boats, a Haunted Harbor for Halloween and staged pirate fights.
The Grays Harbor Historical Seaport has been working for years to acquire the old Weyerhaeuser property across from Morrison Riverfront Park and finally pulled it off this spring. Thursday was billed as the “South Side Sailabration,” the first chance for the public to see what the site could look like as a home for the tall ships.
Across the river, the Five Star Dealerships Splash celebration was going on at Morrison Park.
The ships drew several visitors from the Splash festival and tourists who were driving by.
The Lady Washington, modeled after a coastal trader that first sailed the West Coast in 1787, sported the giant 13 Stars and 13 Bars of the U.S. Flag. Volunteers and crew dressed in period costumes answered questions.
“It’s pretty cool, like authentic,” said Savannah Dilley, 12, of Montesano, who was touring the wood-hulled Lady with her father, Scott, who added “It’s a great idea … to draw more people to the area and … capitalize on our resources.”
Norm Fahnholz and his wife Debby of Alaska plan to retire on the Harbor. One of her relatives, Erick Seppanen, was “reportedly shanghaied to the harbor from Finland,” Debby said. “I LOVE ships,” said Norm.
A woman who said she goes by “Anna V” sat atop the fiberglass bridge molds Seaport Authority Executive Director Les Bolton bought for $100 each to double as seating and barriers. Her family enjoying a rare day off together, headed to the beach first, saw the tall ships from the highway and returned. Leon, Mother Olla, and sister Lena all gave the ships good reviews.
The Twibell family of Cosmopolis had many ideas. Sisters April, 14, Amy, 13, Abigail, 10, and friend Jessica Schrotberger, 14, loved the prospect of more to do, whether it be an amusement or water park, roller coasters, walkways or fishing. Allie, 3, bounced with joy. Son Joey Twibell, 7 next month, was practical when asked what the landing needs: “Money” he said. Allie, 3, responded by bouncing with joy.
Joey’s take on things is probably the most accurate. The Seaport Authority will need money in abundance to spin the 14 mostly industrial buildings and dilapidated piers into business and heritage tourism gold.
Master (and Captain) Kent Gorham from Rochester is also practical: “Good crew facilities, showers and crew accommodations,” and a place where oil can be recycled, lead his list of what’s needed.
Aboard the steel-hulled Hawaiian Chieftain, the Norman family, all wearing U.S. flag-themed T-shirts, were glad to escape 105-degree heat in Yakima. Mother Jennifer liked the Splash’s family friendly free “toys; really nice on the pocketbook.” Father Aaron, Kaycee 14, Alexis, 12, and Ashton, 8, were debating the merits of staying for the fireworks or heading back to Westport where they are vacationing.
“I want to see a paddle boat travel from Westport to Ocean Shores to Friend’s Landing” said Mike Dickerson of Aberdeen and one of the founders of civic group Our Aberdeen. Grandson, Otto Edler von Graeve, 14, and granddaughter, Grace, 13, visiting from France and Los Angeles, were thrilled to travel aboard the Chieftain to the ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday evening.
“It would be cool to show how people used to live,” said Otto. They want to see pirate fights re-enacted since the Lady was used in the “Pirates of The Caribbean” movies and now plays Captain Hook’s ship in the television series “Once Upon a Time.” Grace thought “lots of museums” would be good.
Jennifer Bernyk, 24, with blue hair, star-spangled earrings and flag themed toenails, also sees staged fantasy adventures at the landing. Boyfriend Cameron, 21, who is stationed at Ft. Lewis, envisions a do-it-yourself workshop where visitors could mill small ships.
Bolton dreams of the rhythm and blues festival, a Haunted Harbor for Halloween and sees a joint 4th of July celebration with the city’s Splash at Morrison Park next year. Community Development director Lisa Scott agreed Friday it might be a plan.
Thirty-eight paid, plus a few guests, sailed aboard the Lady Thursday evening to watch fireworks later that night. Seats are still available for three-hour battle sails between the two ships set for 2 to 5 p.m. today and Sunday. An evening sail from 6 to 8 p.m. is scheduled for the Lady only Saturday evening. Though some elements did not turn out as well as hoped, such as the cancellation of the beer garden and fewer classic cars than expected, feedback from many of the 1,000 or so who turned out to see the ships July 3 and 4 “has been overwhelmingly positive,” Bolton said.
The tall ships depart on their summer sailing schedule around the Sound and points north on Monday, July 8 and return to Aberdeen in October, according to the website.