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Hammond Marina: 'It's finally ours!'

Col. Aaron Dorf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hands over the wheel to Warrenton Mayor Henry Balensifer. (Cindy Yingst)
By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, October 3, 2019

The culmination of years – no, decades -- of work to place the ownership of Hammond Marina in the city’s hands came to fruition Wednesday.

“The city is so excited for this day,” Warrenton City Manager Linda Engbretson giddily told the dozens of politicians, public employees and residents gathered for the transfer ceremony at the boat basin.

Those who made it happen were “doggedly” determined, Sen. Betsy Johnson said. Federal, state, county and city officials had to work together.

“Your gracious transfer today signifies that great partnership,” Johnson said. Mayor Henry Balensifer, County Commissioner Mark Kujala and others worked tirelessly, she said, “and should be justifiably proud in the work you did for this transfer.”

Warrenton High School’s band opened the ceremony with the National Anthem. They were followed by remarks from representatives of U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici’s and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s offices.

Kujala told a humorous story about the national acclaim the marina received through the heroic efforts of a whale who deserved to have freedom. The escape scene in the movie, “Free Willy,” was filmed at the marina.

“So much has happened here with fishermen, festivals and, most importantly, my brother’s wedding,” Kujala said.

Balensifer spoke of the future with an expanded campground, improved park, new docks, a business district and community building.

“We have big plans for this place,” Balensifer said. “We’ll revitalize this area to its former glory.”

Col. Aaron Dorf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, spoke on the marina’s 77-year history before signing the transfer documents alongside the mayor and handing over a ceremonial ship’s wheel, placing the city at the helm.

The boat basin was enclosed in 1940. The land was secured in 1942 by Henry Stimson, U.S. Secretary of War, for protection during World War II. In 1954, the basin was transferred from the military to federal civil works.

In 1967, Hammond Mayor Robert Fox applied to the Corps to lease the land so it could be turned into a public park. When Hammond disincorporated, the city of Warrenton continued as leaseholder.

“Whether it’s your first car, your first home or your first boat basin, with great freedom comes great responsibility,” Dorf said. “The city of Warrenton has invested in the boat basin for many years and has had a clear and defined plan for it. … Returning the land to the city of Warrenton is a success story.”

Clatsop County Commissioner Mark Kujala speaks to residents, politicians and public employees gathered for the marina transfer ceremony. (Cindy Yingst)

Sen. Betsy Johnson speaks at the transfer ceremony. (Cindy Yingst)

City Manager Linda Engbretson, who emcee'd the event, watches as the mayor and Army Corps representative sign transfer documents. (Cindy Yingst)

Col. Aaron Dorf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Warrenton Mayor Henry Balensifer sign the transfer documents. (Cindy Yingst)

Col. Aaron Dorf

County Commissioner Mark Kujala regales the crowd with a funny story about Hammond Marina's fame. (Cindy Yingst)

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