St. Helens exploring idea of boat to take visitors to Sand Island
Although details are far from complete, and plans are sketchy at this time, the St. Helens City Council is pondering the possibility of purchasing a boat that would take visitors to scenic Sand Island and other venues.
City event coordinator Tina Curry brought up the subject at the April 20 city council meeting, and council members seemed to welcome the idea.
According to Curry, the boat is currently under contract with a builder in Florida and would be able to move up to 30 people per trip from the city dock to Sand Island, summer tours and fundraisers.
Curry told the Spotlight that tourism dollars would pay for the entire cost of buying the boat, so it would cost taxpayers nothing. The exact cost would not exceed $250,000.
"One thing that's really cool about this particular boat is that they are going to make it front-loading, so that we don't have to have a dock," Curry said, noting that the boat could also take part in such ventures as birdwatching or kayaking tours.
Curry added, "The turnaround time would also be able to accommodate more passages back and forth."
The boat would have the benefit of having a licensed captain, who has indicated he would like to participate in the venture, Curry said.
"He generally is in Alaska doing fishing tours," Curry said. "He actually has a lot of good experience with dealing with the tour business, which I think we could find handy in the future."
Although Councilor Patrick Birkle brought up the possible need for a public hearing to address the project, council members were generally supportive of the idea.
Birkle said the boat could help in an emergency, such as the predicted Cascadia earthquake that is likely to cause immense damage to western Oregon and western Washington.
"We are going to be isolated," Birkle noted.
Fellow Councilor Jessica Chilton also spoke in favor of the proposal.
"I want to say that I'm really impressed with this," she said, in addressing Curry. "You did a really good job with your proposal and that's kind of what we're looking for. You illustrated the cost, you illustrated the need."
Councilor Doug Morten called the proposal a "crown jewel."
"This river is an amazing asset for the city," Morten said, noting the boat "just opens all kinds of opportunities."
Morten added, "Since you have a pilot who is well received and well certified, that's an unbelievable asset … it really seems to be a wonderful situation for this community, at this time. I think it's very timely."
Morten's enthusiasm was tempered, though.
"It came too soon, too fast," he said. "It's all here in our lap, and if we can buy a little time, somehow, someway, to make certain we'll make the proper decision and involve the public in this, I think it's a wonderful opportunity to move forward with."
The City Council did not take action at the April 20 meeting, and there is no word on a date for a possible public hearing or further meeting on the topic.
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