Lakebay Marina Overdue for Renovation
Local buyers plan to renovate Lakebay Marina for community use By Rachel Kelly | Photo Courtesy of Recreational Boating Association of Washington
As intertwined as the water and its harbors are in our local culture, the nearly century-old Lakebay Marina holds a special place in our collective hearts. Originally built for small cargo ships, the marina is more widely known as having been a service point for the Mosquito Fleet. For those of us who don’t know, the Mosquito Fleet was a part of a ragtag group of boats that were used for local needs and projects from the late 1800s until the late 1920s. At its height, the fleet comprised over 700 hundred ships (although the actual number could be higher). They went anywhere there was water and were invaluable due to their ability of being small enough to squeeze into hard-to-reach places. Not always in working order, and rarely easy on the eye, the Mosquito Fleet reliably connected our greater community by delivering mail, goods, and people. In 1928 they called Lakebay Marina home.
Due to its central southern location, initially Lakebay Marina was built for small cargo ships to encourage trade. However, the Sound, with its changing currents and shifting waterways, can be difficult to navigate (especially so far south). Trade ended up being difficult for those who lived on the further stretches of the Sound, with the water acting as a gulf between peoples. Most ships were in regular danger of sinking, exploding, or being torn to pieces until the arrival of the Mosquito Fleet. The founding of the fleet, and its marina, led to the ability of locals to live wherever they liked while still being connected to their local trade centers and people. The Lakebay Marina made possible the daily (versus monthly) connection of people along the lonely stretches of the Sound. Along with being a harbor for our ragtag fleet of mosquitos, Lakebay Marina, in its heyday, also housed an egg cooperative, hosted community dances and still, until (very!) recently, housed a small waterfront restaurant. Set in a stunning vista, central to many different waterways, it seems natural that the marina has been such a community gathering place. Lakebay Marina did, in fact, encourage trade as it was built to, although the trade was more vital and significantly more local than originally intended.
Today, even in our hyper connected world, the stretches of water that separate us here in the Sound still create a worthy obstacle. The necessity of ships, kayaks, canoes, motorboats, ferries, and various recreational craft is alive as ever. The existence of Lakebay Marina is still a practical piece of our culture, community and connection. Not just for its beauty, but because of its central location here in the South Puget Sound. It is one of only two public marine facilities and is one of the few fuel docks this far south. For public boating, transport and travel, such a location is essential. Sadly, it has fallen into disrepair. Three run-down out-buildings have been demolished in recent years due to disrepair and limited funding.
Thankfully, this is not the end of the story, as the marina has new buyers. In the future, Lakebay Marina will still continue to be a key gathering place for the South Sound. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Recreational Boating Association of Washington (RBAW) purchased the waterfront property from Mark Scott for $1.776 million. Scott was having difficulty maintaining the facility, as well as keeping it up to environmental and structural codes. A local neighbor brought the property to the attention of the commissioner of public lands. Funds were raised for the purchase through a boating facilities state legislature grant, Pierce County, and private donors.
The funds will go toward the upkeep of the building and lands to be a place for the community, as well as be a practical harbor for South Sound boating of all types (small recreational vessels to larger cargo vessels alike). “Lakebay Marina is still very much a community space, and craft of all types will be welcome,” says Bob Wise of Recreational Boating Association of Washington. Renovations will be done in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources, State Parks, and local boater groups. The DNR will focus on aquatic lands, State Parks the upland area, and the local boater groups the marina itself. During the marina’s renovation, facilities will stay open to the public. The sustainable restoration of Lakebay Marina is truly a community collaboration in recognition of its long-time community use.
A changing Lakebay Marina is good for the waterway as well as the people who use it. For the future of Lakebay Marina, there seem to be no downsides.