$2M Old Town Dock project could begin this summer

A $2 million project to rehabilitate Tacoma’s 139-year-old Old Town Dock on Schuster Parkway is anticipated to begin this summer, according to Metro Parks Tacoma officials. Wayne Williams, Metro Parks Tacoma Director of Operations, and Larry Dahl, Metro Parks Tacoma Board President, updated Tacoma City Council on the project during a study session at City Hall on April 10.

According to Williams and Dahl, construction permits for the dock are in place, design plans are 90 per cent complete, and construction is expected to begin in August. “People in the area are very excited,” said Williams. “We have an active steering committee that has been involved in helping with the design and will continue to be an asset as we move into discussions about future opportunities for programming.”

Williams and Dahl also told city councilmembers a plan is under way to fund rest rooms adjacent to the dock.

Old Town Dock, located at 2123 Schuster Parkway and stretching out into Commencement Bay, dates back to 1873 and has been a hub for a variety of activities: a wharf for commercial fishing vessels; a chance to get closer to the water while visiting Tacoma’s Old Town neighborhood; a place for emergency services such as the Coast Guard and Tacoma Fire to hold rescue exercises; and a quiet spot to cast rod-and-reel and do some fishing on a sunny afternoon.

In July 2008, however, it was closed to visitors after the city’s public works department deemed it a danger to visitors. The deck is deteriorating and the structure lacks a handrail. In 2009, underwater inspections revealed structural deficiencies. The following year, a public meeting was held in Old Town to share the results of a structural survey that aimed to assist in the repairs and modifications required to reopen the dock and outline the next steps. A five-person advisory group was created to guide the process. Two assessments were completed to determine the extent of damage and establish a project budget. Later that year, Tacoma City Council awarded a $319,000 contract to Reid Middleton to perform design, permitting, and construction support services for the repairs. The City contributed $159,500; Metro Parks contributed $159,500. Last year, Tacoma City Council approved an additional $30,890 toward the project to cover additional design services.

Last year, however, the project was delayed due to concerns raised by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). “Public Works Director Dick McKinley reports the City was notified that NMFS has decided that the Old Town Dock project should undergo a ‘formal consultation’ regarding compliance with Federal environmental regulations,” wrote interim City Manager Rey Arellano in his Nov. 24 weekly report to Tacoma City Council.

The rehabilitation project would replace the pier’s deficient piles, deck, gazebo and flag pole, according to Metro Parks Tacoma’s Web site. It would also include a new hand railing, lighting, and fire suppression. The transient moorage dock would be repaired and finger piers replaced.

In November 2005, Tacoma voters approved an $84.3 million bond measure to fund a variety of park improvements through 2013. The park improvements include $5.5 million to be directed toward matching funds for the promenade extension through the Asarco site to Point Defiance, reconstruction of Old Town Dock, new site lighting and furnishings, and utilities, rest room and concession renovations.