Developer wants to start resort construction in less than 2 years

Peninsula News Network


Port Angeles, WA - When Rayonier announced it was shutting its Port Angeles pulp mill in the Fall of ’96, we called it one of the worst days ever for the local economy.

But Thursday could go down in the record books as one of the biggest days ever for the city’s economy, with the old mill site now at the center of a multi-million dollar resort proposal.

Most observers would see the Rayonier mill site at the mouth of Ennis Creek as a vacant industrial area, partially cleaned up, but still covered with the remnants of its industrial past.

But retired engineer Jerry Ward sees something else, a location that can be converted into a world class resort featuring an aquarium, water park and time share condominiums.

For the past year, we’ve been hearing rumors about the man who was exploring ways to redevelop the Rayonier mill site for the 21st century. Wednesday city officials finally put a name to that story, and Thursday Jerry Ward went public with his plans.

Those plans are for an ambitious redevelopment of the mill site at the mouth of Ennis Creek, featuring a multiplicity of uses. The project would be anchored by top-dollar time share condominiums. Not just the “filing cabinets” of the past, but living units centered around amenities such as a world class aquarium and marine research facility, a water park, shops and other businesses.

But the ideas don’t stop at the water’s edge. Ward wants to renovate and extend the 1100 foot Rayonier dock so cruise ships and other vessels could berth there. On the west side, there’s talk of bringing in the old aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ranger as a naval museum with room enough for community and private functions. The carrier is decommissioned, but hasn’t been declared surplus.

Members of the U.S.S. Ranger Foundation joined the Thursday tour to check out the possibilities for the site.

There’s even ideas for building a parking garage on the site and using inventor Jerry Lamb’s Levx system, with a magnetic levitation “people mover” to take people along the waterfront between the resort and downtown.

At an afternoon briefing, Ward expressed confidence in building the $120 million development, being ready to start construction by the Spring of 2005. He praised the area and the potential for its tourism industry, and said tourism is his “primary focus”.

Ward admits there’s a “lot of work” to be done to get the site cleaned up from its industrial use and ready for the residential and commercial development. He’s confident those issues can be addressed. Ward has already been working with Rayonier for months, and says his engineering team will be meeting with the company starting in August to begin working out what must be done.

Ward expects his initial site designs for the resort project will continue to evolve and change. But he promises he’s going to work with the community to design a “first class” facility; one that brings business growth but respects the area’s past, including the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe’s claims on property immediately east of the site.

We’ll have more on the various aspects of this major announcement coming over the next several days here on Peninsula News Network.


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