Marine Parks History
A Parks Commission status report, published in 1958, pointed out that "Because of the growing popularity of pleasure boating in Puget Sound, the Commission is constantly on the alert for additional areas that will serve boating enthusiasts." With the advent of small gasoline and diesel engines, the postwar surge in outboard engine development, and inexpensive fiberglass building systems, more and more families were able to buy boats. Unlike their East Coast counterparts, Washington sailors can use their boats year­round, as the Sound does not freeze in winter and, for the most part, temperatures remain moderate. The long "season" guarantees that investments in facilities are worthwhile. Indeed, Washington leads most of the nation in per capita boat ownership.
The first park with marine facilities was Deception Pass, which was acquired in 1922. Though the park at first had no mooring buoys or floats, it quickly became obvious that, along with shore­based campsites and picnic tables, the park needed places for boaters to tie up. Further north, in 1926, the Parks Committee gave a permit to the Bellingham Yacht Club to build a breakwater and floats in Larrabee State Park. In 1928, the Committee decided to charge boaters a small fee for the use of moorages. In addition, many areas were informally used by sailors as parks, even though they were not owned by the Commission. Coon Cove, the present site of Squaxin Island State Park, was one such spot, along with Matia Island in the San Juan group.
By 1949, the Commission directed the staff to look for suitable marine parks, and the staff responded by listing some 40 potential areas. Not all of these were acquired, but the list gave the Commission a working knowledge of appropriate locations for marine facilities. The Commission's saltwater marine parks fall into two categories-those that have both land and water access, and those that can only be reached by water. The Commission recognized early in the marine park planning process that many areas of the Sound were suitable for waterfront parks, but that land access for non­boaters just wasn't always possible. Many of the small parks in the San Juan Islands fall into this category. The large islands of the group have regular ferry service, thus providing non­boaters with access to parks and other facilities on the islands. However, it is not economical to provide public ferry service to the countless small islands that complete the group. These small islands are still ideal for boat­access­only parks, patronized by those who, own or charter boats.
Many parks with saltwater frontage also have boating facilities. These parks, like Penrose Point near Longbranch, can be reached by car or boat. Such facilities cater to the needs of both car and boat users. The Commission provides mooring buoys and, in some parks, floats for boat mooring. These saltwater marine parks are extremely popular, and are heavily used. Thousands of in­state and out­of­state boaters charter vessels each summer and head for the most popular destination, the San Juan Islands. Marine parks are scattered throughout Puget Sound and its a adjacent waters, and boaters in any area of the Sound have access to many water parks.
In 1959, 318 acres of Sucia Island State Park were donated to the Parks Commission after extensive fund raising by the Interclub Boating Association of Washington.
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