Marissa Luck, March 25, 2015, The Daily News
Port of Longview commissioners on Tuesday formally accepted an agreement to take over Willow Grove Park from Cowlitz County.
Commissioners representing both agencies approved an interlocal agreement and a quitclaim deed that would hand over the property to port.
The county will continue to collect boat launch fees on behalf of the port until the end of the year, with the port and county agreeing to a 50-50 split on those revenues. At least for the remainder of the year, boat launch fees will continue to be $40 for an annual pass, $5 for a day-use pass and free passes for disabled veterans.
Forty-seven acres of the 75-acre park actually is owned by Washington’s Department of Natural Resources and leased by the county without charge, said Ron Junker, the county’s director of public works.
Junker said DNR will either transfer the county’s lease agreement that expires in 2018 to the port or will create a new agreement with the Port of Longview. Junker said the county is hoping to complete arrangements with DNR this week.
Junker added that the county anticipates it will save $35,000 to $45,000 by giving up the park.
Having access to dredge spoils at the park could also save the port up to $10 million in the development of its Barlow Point property, according to a consultant study. To attract businesses to Barlow Point, the site must be raised so the land is even with the tops of the adjacent dikes.
A study conducted by a consultant group estimated that the port is facing a need for up to $592,000 for improvements to the park, such as repairing cracked sidewalks and dilapidated picnic tables, adding and replacing playground equipment and other fixtures. The estimate includes a 30 percent contingency for unforeseen costs, and also includes the cost of hiring a park manager and laborer. The Port hasn’t made any plans yet about which park improvements it may choose to make.
The Port of Longview originally sold the park to the county in 1977. When the county said it could no longer afford to maintain the park, port commissioners agreed in October of last year to take it back.
Port Commissioner Bob Bagaason was unhappy over how long it has taken to get to the point of transferring ownership of the property.
“I thought when we did the vote on this in (the fall), it would be taken care of by now,” he said. ”I’m just hoping that we have some smooth sailing from now.”
Norm Krehbiel, the port’s chief operating officer, said the port is waiting to receive documents from the Department of Natural Resources to finalize the transfer.
This is the first time the port has operated a park in its 94-year history.