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Paddlers Excited as Ancich Nears Completion

New plan saves large sum

By Colin Anderson

Photo Courtesy City of Gig Harbor

With Ancich Waterfront Park nearly complete, all that remains of the project is water access for non-motorized craft. “Anything you want to do (develop) on the waterfront is hard, and it should be, but it’s a nice feeling to be almost there,” explains Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team (GHCKRT) Founder and current board member Alan Anderson.

Anderson and the organization have been with the project since its conception in 2012. After the city purchased the undeveloped waterfront property, it began surveying the community about what it would like to see included. High on the list was a place for paddlers to have a dock with easier access to the waterfront. “With fishing boats, yachts, rentals lined up to launch at Jerisich Dock, the need is very evident,” says Anderson.

A stroll down to the Ancich today and you will find a beautifully landscaped park with picnic benches to take in the view. At the water’s edge there is beach access, and just above the beach is the brand new boat storage facility. As part of an agreement with the city, GHCKRT will lease about 60 percent of the storage space, effectively making it a new home base for the nationally recognized team. “We’ve been looking for a waterfront home for the 18 years that I’ve been here, and it’s great that it’s not just us, but this is about the whole community having access to the water,” says Anderson.

The dock will be open and available to kayakers, dragon boats, stand-up paddle boarders and all other forms of non-motorized water sports. In fact, this will be the only place on the harbor that is open to the public that is solely for use of human-powered watercraft. While the Canoe and Kayak Team boasts national-champion and Olympic-caliber athletes, the area will also be used as a training ground for those new to the sport, and is a safer place for beginners to get out on the water. “Dodging fishing boats and yachters if you are a rookie can make you a little nervous,” Anderson says. Ancich Park will provide a place for paddlers of all levels to launch safely, and its location away from the busiest parts of the harbor make it a prime place for beginners and visitors to the area who might be unfamiliar with the layout of the harbor.

While original plans for the Paddlers Dock called for the building of a brand new large dock with the ability to float up and down with the tide, new developments have drastically changed the original design. The City of Gig Harbor, which owns and maintains the park, is in final negotiations with the Jerkovich family, who owns the dock adjacent to Ancich Park. Under the new plan, a new build of a floating dock would be scrapped, and the Jerkovich family dock would instead be renovated. Fishermen will still utilize the east side of the dock, but non-motorized craft would launch to the west. “The original plans called for two 80-foot piers and a lot of overwater coverage,” explains Mayor Kit Kuhn. “This plan will make the harbor look cleaner with less overwater coverage and a more attractive view.”

Kuhn also touts the savings in the new plan. The original floating dock was budgeted at $1.2 million. The projected cost of renovations and permitting for the Jerkovich family’s dock will come in closer to $400,000. GHCKRT initially planned on fundraising more than half a million dollars for the project but now will need only a small portion of that—if any at all.

If the agreement goes through at the August 10th meeting, the city would cover the cost of making the now public portion ADA compliant, as well as replacing a few floats, moving a security gate and some older poles. GHCKRT is behind the new plans and is confident it can accomplish its goals while also seeing the benefit to other interested parties.

“It’s a win for everyone. Taxpayers save money, the Jerkovichs get their dock rebuilt, and we still get safe water access,” affirms Anderson. “This change is perfectly fine with us, and we can make it work.”

Mayor Kuhn also stressed the added safety with the user-friendly launch area. “There is increased safety for the kayakers and paddle boarders because there will be more distance between them and the fishermen.”

GHCKRT is excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully soon be able to use the dock that’s been near a decade in the making. It will probably be 2021 before the project is finished, but, once completed, a fully functioning city-owned park with water access will be available to all to use.

While the Canoe and Kayak Team will take up several of the storage places, about 40 percent of the availability will be available for individuals and day users to place their watercraft. Daily and monthly rates and availability is still being worked out by the city but should be available upon the completion of the project. There is ample public parking around the park, a rinse station to wash off your craft, and the area is all ADA compliant, which allows everyone to enjoy the park.

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