Fort Worden pier and boat launch

Aerial photo showing the Pier and Marine Learning Facilities

project description

In October of 2019, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (State Parks) completed a predesign report for improvements to the Fort Worden State Park marine area, including replacement of the existing pier and boat launch as well as upland improvements to pedestrian and vehicle circulation and parking. The predesign report was approved by the State Office of Financial Management.

The proposed improvements aim to enhance recreational use, provide safer access, reduce maintenance costs and restore nearshore habitat and processes. The project also seeks to unify the marine area and explored alternatives for possible expansion of building and operational facilities with the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC). Future planning for the PTMSC will be conducted as a separate project.



Originally constructed around 1944, the Fort Worden pier is deteriorating. The creosote piling have reached the end of their reasonable service life. Creosote-treated materials, such as the piles, are known to leach chemical compounds into the beach and marine sediments causing toxic conditions for organisms that live in and use these areas. 

Boat Launch

Built in the mid-1970s, the Fort Worden boat launch is an extremely popular amenity within the park and is regularly used by sea kayaks, canoes, small recreation vessels, and sport fishing vessels. Peak usage is during the spring and summer crabbing and salmon seasons. The launch has had ongoing challenges with maintenance and accessibility due to the constant accumulation of sand and debris and permitting restrictions. Estimated annual boat launch usage is approximately 2,000 motorized and 2,500 non-motorized launches per year. On a busy summer day, up to 50 vessels (both motorized and non-motorized) may use the launch..

Impacts to the Nearshore Environment 

Both the existing pier and boat launch structures impede the movement of sand parallel to the shoreline (littoral drift) which impacts nearshore habitat. The structures and blockage of sand also create unwanted shading and reduce the extent of shallow shoreline habitat and marine vegetation that provide critical habitat for protected fish species.


Adjacent to the pier and boat launch, the existing parking area serves as both truck-and-trailer parking and a circulation area for the boat launch and picnic area. Here, pedestrian and vehicle circulation are undefined and there is a high potential for conflict between users.

Planning process


In 2006, State Parks began a Classification and Land Management Planning (CAMP) process for Fort Worden State Park. This public planning effort culminated with the Commission adopting land classifications for the park into policy. The Commission also approved a long-range plan to guide implementation of its vision for Fort Worden including a Site and Facilities Use and Development Plan, Guidelines for Rehabilitation, and Business and Operations Implementation Plan. The adopted land classifications designate the boat launch and wharf as a “Recreation Area” to allow existing boating activities to continue. It is the only area in the park that allows for power boating and launch ramps. The Site and Facilities Use and Development Plan specifically identifies the boat launch and mooring area and recommends maintaining it in its present configuration. 

In an effort to find a solution to the ongoing maintenance issues associated with the boat launch, State Parks staff consulted with state and federal resource agencies. Best available science indicates that elevated boat launches are more environmentally friendly than the dated at-grade design. In 2016, Parks staff applied for a planning grant to seek funding to design a new elevated boat launch, which was awarded in 2018.

In 2016, State Parks also completed a facility condition assessment of the Fort Worden pier. The assessment observed that most of the pier’s structural support elements were in satisfactory condition, but given the age of the structure, the pier is likely to require significant maintenance and rehabilitation within the next 10 years. In 2018, State Parks staff began a predesign planning process addressing the pier structure. Due to the proximity to the adjacent boat launch, and design and construction logistics, it was decided to incorporate the two structures into an overall re-design to unify the marine area.

Washington Office of Financial Management (OFM) Predesign Report

In order to qualify for design consideration and request funding in the capital budget, the OFM requires state agencies to complete a predesign analysis and report for proposed capital projects. A predesign study is a beginning step in a comprehensive review and funding process and is intended to explore alternatives and assess which alternative best addresses the identified problem and at what cost.

In early 2019, State Parks began gathering background information and exploring possible alternatives to address the issues with the pier and boat launch. On April 18, 2019 State Parks introduced three alternative development concepts and one “no action” alternative at a public meeting to solicit input from stakeholders and the public. Based on preliminary feedback and assessment of the alternatives, the project team developed a Draft Preferred Alternative, which was presented to the public at a meeting on June 10, 2019. 

While the Predesign Report identifies a preferred alternative and conceptual design, the design will not be finalized until after undergoing a rigorous environmental review process that may result in alterations to the project. 

preferred alternative

The Draft Preferred Alternative proposes the removal and reconstruction of both the pier and boat launch. The proposed pier would be approximately 6,100 sf and include a 12-foot-wide walkway that leads to a pier terminus in deep water, waterward of the anticipated edge of the high-value eelgrass habitat. The location of the reconstructed pier would be partially within the footprint of the existing pier and overwater cover would be significantly reduced (from approximately 23,000 sf), which would restore key habitat-building processes, including littoral drift and expansion of eelgrass. The existing two-lane boat launch would be replaced with a one-lane elevated design, which will decrease the ramp’s footprint over the water and also help restore movement of sand.

The preferred alternative would unify the marine area by defining circulation routes. A designated multi-use pathway would connect the Beach Campground to the existing PTMSC buildings, Canteen, pier and day-use areas. Boat launch circulation would be a small area concentrated near the boat launch and away from pedestrian circulation routes; new vegetation areas and graded landform would help to further separate vehicles from pedestrians. When the boat launch is especially busy, trucks with trailers would be directed to existing overflow parking located north of the campground.


Now that OFM has approved of the Predesign Report, State Parks is positioned to request funding to apply for permits and proceed with construction, which will require additional analyses and environmental review under SEPA. The environmental review process will provide for additional public feedback on the project design and mitigation alternatives prior to any permitting decisions. Construction will be dependent on funding and contingent on obtaining all necessary permits and approvals.

State Parks intends to issue our SEPA determination in Fall of 2022.


Michael Hankinson, Parks Planner
P.O. Box 42650
Olympia, WA 98504-2650
(360) 725-9756