By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

A professionally developed master plan would chart a path for a better-looking, more service-oriented Crescent City Harbor.

A master plan has for years been considered a crucial first step toward revitalizing the harbor's declining economy and appearance - and harbor officials have never been closer to having just such a plan than now.

Harbor Chief Executive Officer Rich Taylor said he expects to have a signed contract by Tuesday with RRM Design Group of Santa Rosa to develop a new master plan for Crescent City Harbor.

Earlier this month, the harbor district secured the last of the grant funding needed to hire the Santa Rosa firm. The public may be able to participate in the planning process as early as December, according to Taylor.

andquot;Now that all of the grant funding is in place, we are poised to launch our efforts that will result in a strategic plan and road map for revitalizing a harbor that is such an important part of Crescent City, Del Norte County and Northern California,andquot; said Keith Gurnee of RRM.

Harbor business owners are enthusiastic about the prospect of growth and change.

andquot;It would be nice if we had more things around here,andquot; said Joni Baugh, who with her husband, Barry, owns South Beach Outfitters, a surf shop at the harbor.

andquot;It's an untapped resource that needs to be respected, admired and not abused - yet used.andquot;

The goal of the plan is the assess the current state of the harbor and its property holding and income, as well as to assess what information is required by the myriad regulatory agencies, such as the California Coastal Commission, that have jurisdiction over development there.

Then, the firm will collect and organize the goals of the community and elected officials regarding the future look and purpose of the harbor and provide a plan to help achieve those goals.

Completing a traffic study, an economic feasibility and market analysis and collecting all of the necessary environmental studies are all part of the firm's scope of work.

Having the master plan and local coastal plan in hand will reduce the amount of time and bureaucratic struggle developers would have to navigate to build in the harbor.

andquot;This is why we do this, so you don't have to go back through this process each time there is a new project,andquot; said Taylor.

After the contract is signed between the harbor district board and RRM, Taylor said the harbor board will likely set a date for the first public meeting about the plan.