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Improvements taking shape at Tracyton dock
It may not look like much to some. But for Ted Hilliard and those who support the Port of Tracyton, it’s a start.
What it is, is a park bench that will have an etched outline of the Cascade Mountains on a backrest, and hopefully a mural painted by art students at Bremerton High School.
“It’s the first tangible step that things are happening here at the Tracyton dock,” said Hilliard, the newest of the three commissioners at the Port of Tracyton. “And it’s a sign that we are finally getting things done.”
According to the port’s website, on June 1, 1929, voters in Tracyton approved the formation of the Port of Tracyton. Members of the Tracyton community, an unincorporated area of Kitsap County on Dyes Inlet, petitioned the Board of County Commissioners for the election in order to allow the purchase of a dock on the Tracyton waterfront.
The dock would be used to facilitate access to Mosquito Fleet steamers that connect the area to downtown Bremerton, just across the Port Washington Narrows, and other towns on Puget Sound.
But a year later the Manette Bridge opened and connected the Tracyton area with downtown Bremerton, decreasing use of the steamers.
For several decades the port district was inactive except for providing access to the beach and to a boat launch.
In the 1990s, an effort was made to dissolve the Port of Tracyton, which caused a controversy among board members. But the port remained intact and in 2008, Tracyton voters approved a measure to expand the port district in order to increase the tax base and fund a series of projects to enhance the community’s waterfront facilities.
The port is now actively working on improvements at the Tracyton dock, a place where non-motorized boats are launched into the waters of Dyes Inlet.
The dock, which is really a short road into the water, is one of just a few properties that the Port of Tracyton owns and operates.
To try to drum up some support for the Tracyton waterfront dock, port officials purchased the eight-foot bench made from reclaimed plastic milk bottles. The seat of the bench is in place, but a back is still in the process of being etched and painted. It will be placed soon, and a dedication is planned at the dock on Sunday, May 11 at 2 p.m.
“We’re calling it the Ride the Tide to Tracyton,” Hilliard said. “We have kayakers who will ride from Port Orchard and arrive here for the dedication.”
Along with the bench, a metal sculpture will be dedicated to the people of Tracyton which still considers itself a “village,” although some of its main features have gone by the wayside including the Tracyton Elementary School which is no longer used and the Tracyton fire station that may soon be closed.
Hilliard, who moved to the Bremerton area in 2005, is a native of California. He worked for a state senator and the governor and is a professional campaign consultant. That was before he retired.
“I decided to move to the Northwest, let my hair grow and get a boat,” he said. “But I’m just programmed to work.”
So he took an advisory position on the governor’s committee for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. And then the Port of Tracyton came calling.
“I kept watching and nobody had filed for the position,” he said. “They even extended the deadline and still no one was filing. So I did.”
That was about a year ago and last November he was elected a port commissioner.
He likes to tell people that he’s a commissioner on the Port of Tracyton — the taxing district with the lowest property tax rate in the entire state.
“It’s so low, it’s almost invisible,” he joked.
In fact, the port’s entire budget is just about $30,000 annually. That has to cover the cost of maintenance of the dock and a couple of pieces of property that the port owns and a part-time administrator.
This year, he said, the port was able to sell one piece of property it owned for $30,000 and “doubled our income.”
With some of the added income, port commissioners want to begin to make some improvements, including the bench and repairs to the paved road that leads to the water at the dock of Tracyton.
“We want to make it attractive to kayakers and canoers,” he said. “It’s an area that we would like to be used for anything non-motorized.”
His hope is that kayakers who paddle the waters from Bremerton and Port Orchard to Poulsbo will stop at Tracyton for a rest, or lunch.
“I’d like to someday see a property close by turned into a picnic area with some covered facilities,” he said. “But with the addition of the bench, it makes for a perfect place for boaters to stop off, kick back and have a sandwich.”
Tracyton is on the Kitsap County Water Trails Map and officials at Olympic Outdoors (kayaking outfitters) are helping plan the “Ride the Tide to Tracyton” celebration.
Hilliard knows that the boat launch at Tracyton is small in comparison to other places. But he said its a public place available for recreation.
“If nothing else, it’s just a great little place for people who kayak and canoe,” he said.
The port owns a property nearby that could be used in the future to provide for more vehicle parking for visitors to the boat launch area. And that’s on the port’s list for future projects, as is helping Tracyton with its annual Holiday tree lighting next December.
“That’s what I love about Tracyton,” he said. “There’s just that village appeal. We work together here to see that things get done.”
With the soon-to-be improved boat launch, the Tracyton Methodist Church’s park, the Tracyton Public House, and the Tracyton Library, there’s the real possibility of rebirth of tourism in Tracyton, he said.
“Ports are in the business of economic development,” he said. “For us, that really means bringing visitors to the area. We’re working toward that.”
And he said, Tracyton has the best sunsets around.
“Just come down and watch one,” he said. “They are the best sunset views in Puget Sound.”
Port commissioners meet at 6 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month in the meeting room of the Tracyton Community Library, 351 NW Tracy Ave.