By Eron Berg, Executive Director, Port of Port Townsend

The Point Hudson Marina and its surrounding upland district, at the edge of Victorian Port Townsend’s downtown, are among the jewels of the Salish Sea. This historic marina and the century-old buildings that surround it—once a U.S. government quarantine station—have welcomed boaters for generations.

Over the last decade, however, the two jetties that shield the marina from southerly winds and storms have been battered to the point that storms combined with king tides can now sweep through the marina basin. In December 2018, such a storm required emergency workers to don life jackets in efforts to protect vessels.

In addition, all elements of the crib-like jetties, which contain basalt rock within creosoted pilings tied together by cables, are failing. The buildings, mostly constructed in the 1930s, are in need of serious rehabilitation. Infrastructure that serves Point Hudson—roads and utilities—are strained by decades of steady use.

Port and partners stepping up

The Port of Port Townsend—the public agency responsible for not just Point Hudson but for two other marinas, a boat yard, an airport, several boat ramps, and other facilities crucial to the economic vitality of Jefferson County—is stepping up to the task so Point Hudson remains a safe haven for future generations of boaters, workers, and the general public. It is a daunting task, given that replacement of the jetties alone is estimated to cost $14.7 million. However, the importance of Point Hudson to the Port Townsend and Jefferson County communities, along with boaters from all over the region, is undisputed.

As just one example, for more than 40 years Point Hudson has served as the home of the annual Wooden Boat Festival. For the 51 weeks of the year when Point Hudson is not jammed with wooden boats, it offers more than 50 slips to visiting boaters and additional slips to iconic vessels such as the Martha and the Adventuress. It is the home port for Puget Sound Express which offers a link to the San Juan Islands.

Its national importance has been recognized by its inclusion in the new Maritime Washington National Heritage Area (MW-NHA). The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation envisions Point Hudson as a vibrant center of maritime activity and is partnering with the Port toward its rehabilitation to enhance the substantial activity that already occurs at the site.

The Port has launched a robust plan for Point Hudson, and almost every government entity in Jefferson County has signed on as a partner: the City of Port Townsend, Jefferson County, the Public Utility District, and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. Every major nonprofit in Jefferson County is also joining, such as the Northwest Maritime Center (host of the Wooden Boat Festival), the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Council, the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association, the Marine Science Center, and the Port Townsend Main Street Program.

The jetties

The Port has hired Mott MacDonald Engineering to create a design for the replacement of the jetties. The south jetty, which takes the brunt of storm damage, is in the worst shape and is the first project in the proposed timeline. The planned replacement resembles the original historic structure but substitutes steel pipe for creosoted logs and adds hardier rock. Thanks to an affirmative vote last November by Jefferson County taxpayers, funds for design work come from the Port. The total project exceeds Port financial resources and the Port is working hard to locate other resources. If successful, the jetty rebuild could be completed in 2022 or 2023.

Historical and cultural resources

Artifacts Consulting has been hired to document Point Hudson’s historic and cultural resources in advance of the later phase of work targeted at the historic buildings and surrounding upland area. Since time immemorial, the beach spit and once swampy ground now home to the marina were used by and home to the S’Klallam people. Since European settlers arrived in the 1850s, several generations of buildings have come and gone. The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation will be deeply involved in this aspect of the project and will assist in identifying funding sources to support rehabilitation efforts through the newly created Maritime Washington National Heritage Area. Cost estimates for this work are unknown at this time.

Inclusion in the MW-NHA brings several benefits to the rehabilitation efforts for Point Hudson. Already, it has helped to mobilize the partnerships necessary to take this long-needed rehabilitation from vision to reality. The MW-NHA has served as a crucial connector and catalyst for collaboration, serving as a facilitator for diverse interests from government entities to nonprofits to local tribes.

We look forward to the new opportunities the MW-NHA will bring in sharing the stories of Point Hudson with a wider audience. Partners throughout the heritage area will work to increase maritime-related tourism and storytelling through joint marketing, interpretation, and other collaborative efforts to increase appreciation for our coastal communities.

The Port of Port Townsend looks forward to working with our friends along the saltwater coast to collectively “raise all boats” and celebrate our vibrant, living maritime culture as part of the MW-NHA.

Above image: Aerial view of Point Hudson, just northeast of downtown Port Townsend.

Deteriorating jetty at Point Hudson.
The schooner Martha moored at Port Hudson at sunset.