Newport Bayfront Sea Lion Dock renovation boosters Stan Pickens and Bob Ward were assured by the Newport City Council Monday that the city will go the extra mile to help them, and their newly formed non-profit corporation, fund a revitalized and expanded sea lion dock which is one of the biggest tourist magnets along the Bayfront.
The council bumped up against some of their own bureaucratic red tape in that they will have to open up the application process again for any non-profit group that wants to promote tourism in Newport. But but they added that the sea lion dock deserves special consideration in that the dock must be installed between November and early February in order to not disturb spawning fish that start showing up in February in Oregon’s rivers and streams. If they don’t get the work done starting next month, they would lose an entire season of sea lion lovers who look down at the spectacle and snap lots of pictures and take hours of video in addition to all the other things they do in Newport, which, of course, benefits the economy of the whole area.
Mayor Mark McConnell and the other councilors went out of their way to praise the project but reminded Pickens and Ward that in all fairness the call must go out to all applicants for the second round of applications for the tourist promotions money. The first round went to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Oregon Coast Council for the Arts and the Marine Heritage Museum earlier this year.
In order to help the group get busy on the docks, there was speculation that the city might loan the $25,000 to the group and then arrange to have the city pay it off with a grant from the tourism promotion fund. There is over $300,000 still left in that fund, leaving the lion’s share of it for other groups.
Pickens and Ward say they’ve already raised over five thousand dollars of their own from area businesses and from tourists who drop donations into a safe depository box on the dock. They say they’re also exploring other funding options to supplement what they hope they’ll get from the city.
The dock was built many years ago as a landing for tourists motoring over from the South Beach Marina. But the watery commute never caught on. Most drove over. So when the sea lions noticed no one was using them, they squatted in grand style on the wooden docks which, of course, have severely deteriorated over the years.
The plan is to create two new forty-foot wooden docks affixed to pylons already there. In the future, Pickens and Ward say they would like to replace the wooden docks with something more stable and durable – concrete docks. But they say it’ll take some time and a bit more money to make that happen. In the meantime they believe the sea lions will be back in the swim of things along the Bayfront, barking and cavorting around on their new perch next Spring, much to the awe and wonder of their legions of fans watching from above.