New Harper Pier is born

 

Tad Sooter, September 30, 2014, Kitsap Sun

Not much was keeping the old Harper Pier together by the time port officials roped it off in 2012.

“I think it was just termites holding hands,” joked neighbor Robert Roosendaal, borrowing a favorite movie line.

Decrepit as it may have been, the pier was the center of the small South Kitsap community, and Harper residents rallied to the dock’s defense when its future was uncertain.

Their advocacy paid off. Tacoma contractor Orion Marine began setting pilings this week for a 400-foot-long steel pier that will replace the original wooden structure, which was razed in February 2013. The new design includes a float for kayaks and other small watercraft.

The Port of Bremerton expects the $1.4 million project to wrap up by January. State funding footed most the bill. The site on South worth Drive is owned by the Department of Natural Resources and leased for free by the port.

Supporters of the project welcomed the start of construction.

“We’re really happy, we’re tickled about it,” said Molly Rainey, co-chairwoman of Friends of Harper Pier, as she watched the pile driver at work Tuesday. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Harper Pier began as a Mosquito Fleet ferry dock in the 1880s. More recently it was a popular destination for anglers, scuba divers, dog walkers and wildlife watchers. A prodigious colony of sea anemones entertained children.

While generations of Harper residents enjoyed the pier, battering waves and burrowing sea life took a toll. By 2012, port officials were weary of dumping money into repairs and worried a winter storm could tear the structure apart. The port closed the pier and moved ahead with demolition, but it was unclear if money was available to replace the beloved landmark.

Neighbors of the dock were determined to see it rebuilt. They attended port commission meetings and wrote hundreds of letters to state legislators requesting their support. A Facebook page and a newsletter, distributed from a box near the “Smokers Only” café, kept the neighborhood engaged.

“We just kept up, kept up and kept up,” said Jim Heytvelt, the other chairman for Friends of Harper Pier. “People have been fighting for this pier for 100 years. We weren’t going to give up.”

Port staff assembled a funding package that includes a $500,000 Fish and Wildlife Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account grant, $776,000 in additional state money and a $131,300 match from port coffers. It’s a significant investment, port Commissioner Axel Strakeljahn said at a recent meeting.

“I can’t think of any other organization in our area putting more than $1 million back into their community,” Strakeljahn said.

Through an agreement with the state, a waterfront cleanup served as environmental mitigation for the project. More than 100 residents turned out on July 12 to haul debris off the shoreline.

Neighbors were still checking in at the construction site this week when work got underway. Several watched from along Southworth Drive on Tuesday as Orion barges and a crane positioned pilings offshore.

It seems like everyone is pretty enthusiastic about it,” Project Engineer Drew Carter said. “It’s good to to be building something people want to see.”

See the Port of Bremerton and Friends of Harper Pier pages on Facebook for project updates.

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