Boat ramp plan earns praise from boaters, gripes from neighbors

The current Possession Beach boat ramp is unusable for boaters during low tides, a common problem on South Whidbey, a proposed redesign could make it easier.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
The current Possession Beach boat ramp is unusable for boaters during low tides, a common problem on South Whidbey, a proposed redesign could make it easier.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

At least two neighbors of the Possession Beach boat ramp have concerns about noise mitigation with the proposed new design.

At a Port of South Whidbey public hearing June 10, South End residents Laurence Bucklin and Tom Stinson took issue with the relocation of the dock floats to the south side of the nearly 172-foot ramp. They worry it will bring the accompanying sounds of revving truck engines and yelling people too near to their homes.

“By moving the floats to the other side, you’re bringing the activity another 40 or 50 feet closer to us,” Bucklin said at the port commissioners’ workshop meeting Tuesday.

The port’s project to redo its boat ramp by making it between 8 and 12 inches higher, replacing the creosote wood pilings with steel ones and relocating the floats is focused around reducing sand accretion on the ramp. It’s a regular problem for the port, forcing clearing to make it useable for boat trailers. But sand lance, an important food source for salmon, are known to spawn in such areas. When the port wants to clear a ramp, it must first be checked by the state for eggs.

“This design greatly reduces our costs in terms of cleaning the material, it’s more environmentally sensitive in that the sand moves in that direction,” said Port Commissioner Dennis Gregoire.

Moving the pilings and floats was also preferred by a few boaters at the meeting. Don McArthur, a member of the South Whidbey Yacht Club who said he occasionally uses the ramp, cited the preference of drivers to use the driver-side side mirror to back up a boat trailer as compared to using the passenger-side mirror.

“Personally, putting the floats on the south side will make it easier to use,” he said.

The slope of South Whidbey’s beaches, combined with the dramatic tides at times makes loading a boat into the water a challenge. On a morning like this past Thursday, the Possession Beach boat ramp parking lot was empty except for the backhoe used to clear sand and debris from the launch.

“That’s the slope of the beach, there’s nothing you can do about it,” McArthur said. “If you try to change the slope of the beach, you’ll be digging forever.”

Possession Beach is one of six public launches on the South End that is maintained by the district. The redesign of the ramp is a trial for the port district, which would like to incorporate design elements into future ramp projects. Their reasoning, or “the nose of the camel in the tent,” as Gregoire explained it, is that if the project is successfully permitted, and the finished product results in increased public use, then similar designs may work at other boat ramps as well.


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