Bob Ward and his Sea Lion Docks Foundation made good progress at restoring the Sea Lion Docks down on the Bayfront Monday evening. The Newport City Council unanimously agreed to grant $50,000 of tourist hotel-motel room tax money to restore the sea-going creatures perch at Port Dock 1 so tourists can oogle and ahhh at the big blubbery beasts that sometimes make so much noise you can hear them all the way to Walmart at night.
The coming and going of the tides and many winter storms have battered and tattered what little was left of what were, at one time, dock landings for tourists. They would tie up their boats at South Beach and then take a little ferry across the bay to the Port Dock One landing. Over the years the docks fell into disrepair and the tourists started taking the bridge over to the Bayfront, rather than the ferry.
But the sea lions didn’t mind that the docks were a bit unsightly. They soon started lounging about day and night, barking and honking to the delight of out of town onlookers who came from throughout Oregon, the nation and from many far reaches of the globe. But despite their popularity, the sea lion docks were allowed to further degrade and decay to where they were nearly gone.
Enter Bob Ward. Ward and other Bayfront boosters were committed to rebuilding the docks, but they needed help. They turned to the private sector which offered some donations, but for the heavy financial lifting, Ward and his foundation turned to the city. Realizing that the sea lions were a huge tourist draw, the city council offered their good services to see them rebuilt. An at-first reluctant Port of Newport was cool to the idea, citing the fact that Port Dock 1 is a working dock and sea lion gawkers and working commercial fishing boats tying up and conducting repairs and re-supply operations don’t go well with flocks of tourists. But in the end, they straightened everything out and got the restoration plans approved.
Ward says the Newport grant of $50,000 will pay for the restoration of the water levels docks which should be in place by late spring. Ward says the expanded overlook area for visiting tourists should be done by this time next year.