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Waterway 4: Before CWB Had A Place To Be

February 1, 2012

For those of you out there unaware, Shavings is a publication put out by The Center for Wooden Boats, available to anyone who becomes a supporting member. In our downtime (hey, it happens) we’ve been flipping through some of the old volumes of Shavings and found some articles so drenched in nostalgia we had to lay them out on the docks to dry before sharing them with you.

This one for example…

Imagine, if you can, a South Lake Union with no docks on which to dry anything, because there is no CWB. The area where our docks, livery, Boathouse, Boatshop and our small armada of wooden boats set port was once a barren patch of muck and cat-tails, known to the City Zoning Board as Waterway 4.  This letter comes from the pen of our founder Dick Wagner back in 1980, who saw something in Waterway 4 and set out to describe what and why Waterway 4 would make an excellent berth for the Center of Wooden Boats.

Read on, friends and if the nostalgia gets too much, come on down to the dock and dry off.

Waterway Four,  A Site for The Center of Wooden Boats

      Working against a late spring or early summer deadline imposed by the loss of the Old Boathouse moorage, the Director and Trustees of the Center for Wooden Boats have decided to approach the City of Seattle with a site proposal for Waterway 4 at the south end of Lake Union. In a series of weekly meetings, they debated the virtues of two possible sites to the east and west of Gas Plant Park; Waterway 3, just west of the Naval Reserve Center, and Waterway 4. The consensus that grew around Waterway 4 was the result of four considerations: availability, suitability for small craft, congruence with city planning and land use goals and harmony with other groups.

     Waterway 4 is currently tenantless, one of several drowned street ends owned by the city. In the past, waterways like it were casually appropriated for long-term houseboat moorages, shipyards, marinas and similar commercial enterprises. W-4 was used by a city operated asphalt plant for many years. Now public lakeshore is scarce and the city is trying to preserve what public access still remains for mini-parks and scenic viewpoints. As a non-profit corporation which would make the lake accessible to the public in a truly unique way, CWB makes an attractive client.

Narrow and sheltered by a building on one side and a ship moorage on the other, Waterway 4 lies at a slight angle to the prevailing winds. The floating facility we’re planning would be protected by the Winter’s southerlies and the summer breezes would make access under sail a tack out, run in operation.

     The south end of the lake is a good place for rowers with shipyards, a gravel plant, commercial moorages, and the NOAA activity to explore. The seaplanes which make Waterway 3 hazardous are no problem in 4. Heavy marine traffic which congests the site east of the Gas Plant is minimal. On the landward side, there is sufficient parking already available and good access from Valley St. Although most of the land is underwater, enough is available to provide a promenade for tourists or photographers who want to just look at the CWB fleet framed against the northward stretch of the lake.

     A CWB moorage in Waterway 4 would blend nicely into the development that NW Seaport plans and we support their efforts. But their historic harbor is still in the preliminary stage and has many hurdles to clear. For us, time passes.

There are disadvantages to Waterway 4. It’s currently unsightly, crowded with broken asphalt and gravel; muddy in the rain. It will take work to whip it into shape in time. The south end of the lake is not a touristy place and the rental crowd which we’ll rely on to make us self-supporting will have to find us.

     Some seed money is going to be necessary to get us established down there. Yet in some ways, these problems can be turned to our advantage.

The waterway must be leased from the city and the city will keep a close eye on what we do with it. If we can beautify that scrap of land enough to attract public users to the south end of the lake, it will fit in nicely with the city’s aesthetic plans for that unique body of water.

     If we foster tourist traffic and raise local interest, it could do a lot for the Seaport’s plan. If the rental traffic increases, we can build our collection and finance our educational and preservation goals. All we really need to fulfill these IF’s is money,–a little of it–and work–a lot of it. Volunteers will be needed to clear the land, repair floats, donate and plant shrubs and greenery, paint signs, gravel the parking lot to expand it, raise funds. If we get the waterway, we will need so many things that every member will have a skill that they can donate or a talent that we will be glad to have. The Director is working on the site, the trustees are helping. Shortly it may be your turn.

      Please send letters of endorsement for the site proposal to C.W.B. We need them by Feb. 1 for our city hearing.

SHARE YOUR STORY: Note, the date of Feb 1. That’s historically 32 years ago TODAY! Were you part of this original process? Did you write a letter, attend a meeting, help dredge some of the icky out of Waterway 4? Oh, do tell!

HELP US EXPAND: We’re doing it all over again, only at North Lake Union, up west of Gasworks Park, just past the SPD police docks, but we need help, lots of it. Sign up here to volunteer


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