Promenade, access work coincide with tsunami fixes

In addition to the tsunami-resistant inner boat basin currently under construction, Crescent City Harbor will soon feature a promenade, a half-mile section of California Coastal Trail and other public access improvements.

On Thursday, the California Coastal Conservancy authorized a grant of up to $2.35 million for the beautification and access projects, which will be completed in conjunction with the harbor's reconstruction project.

"This project will really begin the transformation from an industrial harbor to a multi-use, community-oriented commercial fishing and recreation harbor," said Harbormaster Richard Young from his office, shortly after returning from the Coastal Conservancy meeting in Eureka. "The harbor is going to look a lot different."

The grant will fund:

andbull; A waterfront promenade made with decorative concrete at least 10 feet wide that will surround the inner boat basin and also line Citizens Dock Road and Anchor Way.

andbull; A half-mile segment of the California Coastal Trail that will connect the harbor with Crescent City's section of the trail, which ends near the bridge over Elk Creek.

"This phase of it will end at Citizens Dock Road, but we have plans to go all the way through the harbor to South Beach," Young said.

andbull; A new building on the north end of the harbor housing a public bathroom with hot showers and an indoor fish cleaning station. The harbor had to shut down two outdoor fish cleaning stations this summer when dozens of brown pelicans died from eating scraps.

Young said that much of the work should be completed within the next year since the sidewalks are already ripped up due to the reconstruction of the inner boat basin.

The harbor will be able to reap a cost savings of about $1.5 million by starting the promenade project this fall to coincide with the rebuilding of the inner boat basin, Young said.

"The sidewalks are torn up anyway and have to be replaced. And instead of replacing them with plain gray sidewalks, we'll be able to replace them with something much nicer," Young said.

The conservancy's staff recommendation highlighted the economic benefit of the projects: "Recreation and tourism are seen as central to the efforts to revitalize Del Norte Countyandhellip; Making improvements to encourage visitors and thereby increase visitor usage to the Harbor and the Crescent City area will have a positive economic benefit consistent with economic development plans for the area."

The improvements are expected to make the harbor much more welcoming and appealing to tourists and business ventures not involved with the commercial fishing activities. Young said that he's had entrepreneurs interested in opening restaurants or shops back off because the harbor is "too industrial."

"We've talked a lot about the need to bring new business to the harbor and change the atmosphere and that's what this is going to do," Young said.

The project also includes two wind shelters along the promenade to provide a comfortable area for visitors to enjoy the harbor during inclement weather.

The promenade will include four viewing platforms, one in each corner of the inner boat basin, as well as new lighting, landscaping, trash cans and benches. Interpretative signage describing the natural and cultural history of Del Norte County will line the promenade.

Last year, the harbor received a $685,000 grant from the conservancy for master plan design work.

The harbor is expecting to get a matching grant of $577,000 from the Wildlife Conservation Board.

The conservancy is using funds received from proposition 40, the California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act of 2002.

The harbor district also got word this week of formal approval of a short-term $3.7 million gap loan and an $8.1 million revolving line of credit from the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, or RCAC, for the ongoing reconstruction process.

Young said money to repay the loan is going to come from a reduced maintenance budget thanks to the repairs. In addition, boat owners will be billed for the electricity they use instead of the harbor absorbing that expense, he said.

Additional revenue should also come from new leases as additional tenants move in, Young said.

"There's a couple of really beautiful sites where a motel could go or a restaurant could go," he said. "We're hopeful to attract some new restaurants, new motels and maybe some retail shops to make the harbor more attractive. It all sort of fits together. These visitor-serving improvements are all defined in the master plan and this is the first step in making it real."