Golden day for Sunnyside Port District

July 18, 2014, Daily Sun News

“It’s great to turn 50,” quipped State Rep. Bruce Chandler. “I wouldn’t mind being 50 again, it looks better every year.”


Fifty certainly looked good for the Port of Sunnyside yesterday, as the district marked its golden anniversary.


Chandler’s remarks came during a 50th anniversary luncheon celebration on Thursday with a crowd of about 200 well-wishers on hand at Golob Landing.


They included former port commissioners, such as Dick Golob – the landing’s namesake – one of the first three commissioners to serve the port district.


Golob described how port districts around the country like Sunnyside’s came about in the aftermath of World War II. “It was a time when people felt America could do anything,” he said.


Getting a port district off the ground in the arid Lower Valley was no easy task, however.


Another former commissioner, Bill Flower, told the crowd how the initial effort to pursue a port district here failed because its boundaries were not contiguous with a body of water.


He said it was only when a farmer named Porter Griswold agreed to have his land taxed by the fledgling district that Sunnyside’s port could go to a vote of the public.


Flower said getting people to vote for the port was also a challenge, noting meetings at the old Traveller Hotel had supporters on hand to persuade doubters.


“We owe a debt to those first commissioners,” he said. “They sacrificed time and effort and money for the port.”


That time and effort and money has proved worthwhile, noted former commissioner Richard Strain.


He said the fact a smaller city like Sunnyside has three freeway exits is due to Bill Barnard, one of the early commissioners. “He made himself a real pest of the state engineers,” Strain smiled. “He put pressure on them and it paid off.”


State Sen. Jim Honeyford spoke, and he noted the port’s wastewater treatment facility is a boon for Sunnyside in that it frees up the city to focus resources on domestic wastewater since it doesn’t have to treat industrial wastewater.


Besides a help to the city of Sunnyside, the port’s treatment plant serves major industrial employers in the community such as Darigold and Seneca.


Another former commissioner, St. Clair Woodworth, addressed the audience. He praised the work of current staff and Amber Hansen, who served as the port’s first full-time employee and its first executive director until her retirement and move to Arizona in 2012.


During her at times tearful comments, Hansen expressed gratitude for her 22 years of employment.


She remarked the port always seems to be preparing to embark on one project after another. Among those completed works during her time with the port was the Golob Landing development, site of yesterday’s celebration.


Eric Johnson is executive director of the Washington Public Ports Association. He said the Port of Sunnyside’s success is an example of what can happen when a community works together with a shared vision.


Arnold Martin has been a commissioner for half of the Sunnyside port’s 50 years. He’s had a hand in that success over the past 25 years.


“It’s just exciting to see the progress,” he said moments before the start of yesterday’s celebration. “It’s great to see what the industries are doing and to know we’ve had a part in that.”


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