Boaters calling at San Juan Island National Historical Park’s English Camp next summer will step onto a new era when they tie up at the park’s new dinghy dock on Garrison Bay.
The 115-foot long pier, with a 40-foot perpendicular float at the end, was completed Dec. 21 by A1 Marine Services of Friday Harbor, sub-contracting for R.H.D. Enterprises of Tacoma, fabricator of the pier and float fabricator. The project also included new safety railings for the steep stone stairway leading from the pier to the park’s Bell Point trail, north of the parade ground.
“This is the culmination of years of planning and engineering by National Park Service and contract designers and engineers,” park maintenance foreman Ken Arzarian said. “The result is a solid, safe structure that, because of its steel grating surface, will have a minimal impact on the marine environment, particularly eel grass, which has become a threatened species on the bay in recent years.”
English Camp is one of two units in the park that commemorates the peaceful resolution of the final chapter in the Northwest Boundary dispute between the United States and Great Britain. Military forces from both nations jointly occupied the island for more than 12 years without incident. English Camp was held by the British Royal Marines, American Camp by the U.S. Army.
In the spirit of the peaceful joint occupation, the first dock was installed for park visitors arriving by vessel with money donated by International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians of Victoria, B.C., Canada. The dock was dedicated in 1986 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the park. Since then the park has become a destination anchorage for hundreds of visiting boaters over the summer months, as well as for islanders dropping crab pots or seeking a quiet spot to enjoy nature.
But daily use was limited over the years because the float would bottom out at low tide. This not only damaged the structure over time but had a negative impact on the eel grass and underwater cultural resources. This is the primary reason for extending the pier 115 feet into the bay, Arzarian said.
“It will never ground now,” he said.
The eight piles that support the pier were driven 20 feet below the bay floor, six of them into bed rock that required extensive drilling when project was launched Dec. 3. Final planning for the project began in May 2011, when the park received the go-ahead to proceed with replacement of the 140-foot floating dock, originally installed in 1984.
Extensive maintenance was performed on the dock over the years— the ramp from shore to float was replaced in 2008— but rusting fittings, rotting wood and deteriorating floats spurred to park to seek funds for replacement. Park Superintendent Lee Taylor said that great care was taken to ensure that no archaeological resources were affected, and that shoreline health was not compromised during the construction process.