By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
Work on a master plan for Crescent City Harbor is moving ahead after the firm hired for the job collected the thoughts of 41 Del Norte County officials and business people.
"A lot of people said, Clean the place up and don't get too dreamy,'" said Keith Gurney of RRM Design, the Healdsburg-based company hired to draft a plan for the harbor's next 20 years.
Gurney and his staff were here last month to interview commercial fishermen, harbor-area business owners, elected officials and community planners for both city and county governments.
What he said he heard was the need for a balanced plan to accommodate working fishermen, infrastructure to attract tourists and a focus on results, not just a vision statement that rests on a shelf.
"The plan is not only going to lay out what sort of changes should occur to make the harbor more economically feasible. It will also include the steps for implementing it," Gurney said.
The master plan will lay the groundwork for potential developers, because it will assign zoning and allow for future water and sewer connections.
The focus right now, however, is the search for about $350,000 the harbor needs to pay the firm to draft the master plan.
Working on a contingency basis, Gurney's firm is helping find that funding.
"The Harbor District is struggling financially. We're busy helping the harbor secure grant funds from Boating and Waterways and the California Coastal Conservancy to pay for the plan," Gurney said.
In addition, the Harbor District will ask the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors today to help it get $35,000 in planning money from the state's yearly Community Development Block Grant allocation.
Two specific projects Gurney mentioned for the plan are a museum near Highway 101 featuring St. George Reef Lighthouse and development of a sport-fishing marina.
The lack of sport-fishing accommodations has raised the hackles of both sport fishermen and economic advisors who point out that the Port of Brookings-Harbor pulls in more tourists and sport fishermen than Crescent City.
"It seems to be a major issue. It seems the market for sportfishing is picking up, but the harbor is not equipped to handle it," said Gurney.
Once grant and loan funding is secured, Gurney said it will likely take 12 to 18 months to complete the plan.
Mistakes made in the Harbor District's last two efforts to develop a master plan have been identified and will be avoided, he said.
Getting collaboration from the county, city and harbor governments has already been achieved, Gurney said something not done during previous attempts to draft a plan.
A lack of input from the public was another drawback of past attempts. To correct that, several public hearings will be scheduled after the planning process begins, Gurney said.
Having a completed master plan in hand is expected to open the door to prosperity for the harbor and close the door of perpetual struggle.
Currently, the Harbor District government has no water or sewer connections to offer to potential developers. As the Crescent City government holds ownership to water and sewer connections, the harbor has asked to be annexed to the city so those services will be available.
But having a master plan along with updated zoning designations is a prerequisite to annexation.
The plan is also expected to help the harbor win bigger grants and loans, such as those funding the Port of Brookings-Harbor and the Eureka Harbor boardwalk projects.