The Sea Scouts have been active in Tacoma for 88 years. For the majority of that time, they were based on the west side of Thea Foss Waterway. They recently moved across the waterway to become anchor tenants of the Youth Marine Center. It occupies property leased from Port of Tacoma at 820 E. ‘D’ St.
Mike Lonergan, executive director of Youth Marine Foundation, said the Sea Scouts lost their former space. They spent about 18 months relocating gear to the center. A garage sale was held to unload some unwanted items.
He said the old docks could not handle the two main vessels used by the Sea Scouts, the 90-foot sailing yawl Odyssey and the 78-foot Charles N. Curtis, a former Coast Guard patrol boat.
“This changes everything,” he said of the new docks, noting they will allow for more activities for the young mariners.
Total costs of the three docks is $800,000. Some of it came from real estate excise taxes from the city. The state Parks and Recreation Commission provided $225,000 from a program that pays for pumps to remove sewage from boats. Lonergan said the state offered this to pay for installing pumps and hooked up necessary utilities. The Ben B. Cheney Foundation provided $50,000, with other donors in the private sector making up the rest.
The permitting process to construct the docks was lengthy. Lonergan said a half dozen state and federal agencies had to grant approval. “They did not always agree on what they wanted,” he remarked. Some focus on fish habitat, others on navigation. He noted the port played a key role in assigning some of its staff to assist in the permitting process. “That was a huge hurdle to get over.”
Next up is bringing a classroom to the site. A portable structure will serve this need. It is currently under Murray Morgan Bridge. Lonergan said it was previously used as office space for city staff. The city is donating it in return for being able to store its environmental services boat at Youth Marine Center. Lonergan said the organization still needs to obtain permits to move the structure and hook it up to utilities.
He noted Puyallup Tribe donated $10,000 to pay for renovating the classroom structure. Lonergan noted that at 28 feet wide and 80 feet long, the structure will provide much instructional space. Once moved it will sit in a corner of the boat yard.
Lonergan said these developments help move forward the vision of a facility where young people can train for maritime careers. “This is just the beginning of what will develop,” he said. “With Tacoma being a major port city, there should be something like this in town.”
“This new center is a dream come true, said Tom Rogers, a Sea Scout leader for more than 40 years. “Tacoma is a port city, and our next generation now has a great place to learn about careers on the water, and have some fun too.”
Discussions are underway with Metro Parks, Tacoma Public Schools, Pierce County Skills Center and other organizations about having classes at this location.
A grand opening for the new docks will take place on June 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A ribbon cutting ceremony will take place. Tacoma City Councilmember Joe Lonergan will participate, as will representatives of the Cheney Foundation and Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
The event will include tours of the facility, information booths, boat rides and refreshments. Lonergan said kayaks and small sailboats will be available for guests to venture out on. He hopes this might encourage some young visitors to decide to get involved in the programs at the center in the future.
Until the Murray Morgan Bridge re-opens, the best way to reach the Youth Marine Center is to take Portland Avenue north to East 11th Street. Turn left, then right on East D Street to the bright red, yellow and blue building. Everyone is asked to bring an item for the Sea Scouts food drive.