Work will begin next year on the first of two phases of marina redevelopment for Tokeland. The end result will be:
Funding for the improvements will come primarily from three grants, with additional funds from a Pacific County local option sales tax. Port Manager Rebecca Chaffee procured the grants through extensive research and paperwork over the past three years. (See related story next week.)
How did godwits lead to such results?
During a 2010 meeting of the Tokeland/North Shore Chamber of Commerce, “Pete Hayes, who has a vacation place here, said have you noticed the godwits down at the marina? And what’s the marina going to do with the dock that’s there?” Mary Jean Grimes recalled. Grimes has been documenting the activities of a group called Sustainable Tokeland, an organization that also came about from that meeting.
The chamber members didn’t have answers to Hayes’ questions and decided to invite the port’s Rebecca Chaffee and a representative from the Grays Harbor Audubon Society to come and talk about it at their April 2010 chamber meeting. Chaffee and Arnold Martin, president of the birding group, attended; while Martin explained about godwits, Chaffee asked the group to come up with a master plan for improvements at the marina.
Sustainable Tokeland, with a fluid membership of local and area citizens, was organized to develop the master plan. Local leaders have been delighted with results, not only for projects such as the marina redevelopment, but also for the involvement of people of all ages and interests.
“In the initial forming of the Sustainable Tokeland, we were having meetings to determine what we would like Tokeland to look like: What don’t’ we want and what do we want,” said Larry Roberts, chairman of the Tokeland/North Cove Chamber of Commerce.
Early surveys brought interesting results, largely because of a wide range of ages among those participating. “The young people wanted skateboard parks,” Roberts recalled.
“I love the fact that we’re working on the marina because that’s an important part of our community, of our economy,” said Charlene Nelson, chairwoman of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe. “But I like the idea of working together. That is the strongest thing. We all want to protect the true environment here. We do not want drastic changes; we don’t want Wal-Mart’s or anything like that. And we want the godwits protected. “
The good thing, Roberts said, “is the community is working together to enhance the community. They look at things that may not be good and say, how can we prevent it? And they’re looking at things that could be good, and say how can we attain it?”
Early in the process, a public meeting consolidated goals and prioritized them as follows: Road safety, marina (improvements), trail, and more events.
Later surveys at Sustainable Tokeland meetings have brought a number of suggestions in answer to specific questions.
“If you could build one business here in Tokeland/North Cove, and the only goal of that business was to serve the local community, what business would you build?”
Answers ranged from bringing in Costco, Home Depot and Starbucks, to a small café for coffee sessions or a decent tavern, to a thrift shop or second hand store, to outboard engine and inboard boat repair, to doing nothing at all: “Leave Tokeland alone,” one person submitted.
Other items in answer to the question included ferry service to South Bend, a community center or senior center.
“What is the most important type of business that should be located at the marina to support it and to serve local residents and tourists throughout the entire year?”
Answers again ran the gamut: Mini-mall with craft shops; boardwalk for birdwatchers and walkers; store that sells crabbing and fishing equipment for non-commercial use; family play park; showers and laundry; and – again – “None. The marina is just fine the way it is.”
A third question called for ranking additions to the community’s infrastructure. Answers put streetlights first; parks followed at a distance; with wider roads, walking paths and sewers tying for third as top priorities.
In comments on that question, one person responded: “Tokeland is fine the way it is.” Another wrote: “I moved here five years ago because of the small, quiet, peaceful community. As a retiree, I like it the way it is and do not think it’s necessary to encourage more residents or visitors.”
Local leaders don’t seem daunted by the wide range of opinions. In fact, they welcome diversity.
“A number of people attended the first meeting to say what they would like to see in the Tokeland area,” Roberts recalled. “It was very interesting because we had a good cross-section of youth to middle age to old age and what they really wanted to see in the Tokeland area.”
“That first meeting was wonderful where we had the varied ages,” Nelson said, “I think it helps that we work with each other; we can’t do things alone.”
Gene Kuest, who started the chamber of commerce years ago, agreed. Kuest is now the local grange master, a fire commissioner and he works with emergency management people through the fire department. “En masse, you can get a lot more done by working together than by working separately. I’ve learned that over the years.”
By working together, the community has accomplished several things in the past three years. One is the popular Trek Across Tokeland, held first in 2011 “to show them through a path along the golf course,” Roberts said.
And, yes, Tokeland has a golf course. “It’s a link course, which means that if you hit the ball off the fairway you might as well just go over and drop your ball where you think it went into the tall seagrass because you’re not going to find it,” Roberts laughed. “If you keep score, you’re going to be frustrated. If you just go out and hit the ball, it’s fun.”
The trek also takes participants across the dike, Nelson said, and last year the walk took trekkers across private property and tribal lands that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible to the public.
Sustainable Tokeland meetings continue to address the survey results and work toward specific new priorities.
But before all that happened, it was the godwits that got their attention in the first place. Arnold Martin explained the importance of godwits and other shorebirds to the group early on. The chamber’s Larry Roberts and the tribe’s Charlene Nelson noted three years later that, in 2010, they didn’t know about godwits.
“He introduced them to me or I would never have known this,” Nelson said. “A lot of us didn’t know it until he explained a lot of this,” Roberts agreed.
At a February 2013 Sustainable Tokeland meeting, Martin recapped the information for this reporter who also was unfamiliar with the birds:
“Godwits are shore birds that are about 15-16 inches tall, and they’re pretty impressive birds, with a slightly upturned beak,” Martin said. “They don’t make a whole lot of noise, but they’re real pretty.”
Their importance to the community comes about through the interest of the Audubon Society and other birders who are interested in shorebirds.
“The Audubon Society Shorebird Festival at Hoquiam has a yearly field trip to Tokeland during the shorebird fest and godwits are one of the things we come to see. Godwits at high tide roost on these old wooden floats. The question was what is the marina going to do with these old wooden floats; are they going to tear them out? My answer was, I hope not because the godwits use them.”
This year’s annual festival visit to Tokeland takes place Friday, April 26, when a 32-passenger bus will pull up at the marina around 9 a.m.
“As I understand it, there will be a group at the marina to welcome the busload of birders (a sell-out crowd) to Tokeland,” Martin said. “The welcome may be short, as a busload of eager birders is hard to slow down.
“Their first trip will probably be at the marina, where their target birds would be marbled godwits, and possibly whimbrel. Both of these are large shorebirds. In the past years, there have been purple martins nesting near the marina, but I don’t know if they are still around. After checking out the marina for raptors (bald eagles and peregrine falcons) they will probably stop at Graveyard Spit (corner of 7th and Fisher) just to see what species of gulls and shorebirds can be found there.”
What do Tokeland leaders think of all this?
They welcome the birders, of course. And they are now very protective of godwits.
“We all will lay our bodies down in front of the docks if they try to tow the floats away,” Nelson laughed, “because it’s good for people to see something like that, and to learn. And besides the godwits like to be there.”
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