On Thursday, the City of Umatilla will become lease holders on the Umatilla Marina & RV Park.
City staff will host a brief ceremony at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, to mark the transition and the new management.
“As of Thursday, we will be in the Marina business,” City Manager Bob Ward said. “We’re committed to keeping the padlocks off.”
The turnover marks the next step in a process to keep the Umatilla Marina & RV Park open and operational after the Port of Umatilla announced it would step away from the property. The Port managed the property for decades and was under a 25-year lease from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lease ends in December 2018, but the Port Authority decided to terminate the lease early because of financial constraints.
The Port of Umatilla Authority announced its plans to terminate the lease in September 2012 and gave the Corps a one-year notice to find a new entity to take over the site. Although the Port’s lease will end Sept. 11, it will remain responsible for outstanding debts, such as construction bonds.
If another entity had not signed a transfer of lease before the Port’s termination, Ward said boats housed in the Marina would be evicted and the RV Park shut down.
“If we do nothing, we’re going to ensure this is the end of the road,” said Roak TenEyck, Umatilla City Councilman and founder of the Friends of the Umatilla Marina & RV Park organization. “We’re between a rock and a hard place.”
This week, the Umatilla City Council unanimously authorized city staff to sign documents to take over the property lease, as well as three resolutions to transfer budgeted funding for the operations between departments.
The city has discussed options for funding the site, including reducing expenses and the potential for a Parks & Recreation district.
The one “fly in the ointment” for the transition rests with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Because of the cultural significance of the area, tribal entities must have a say in any property transaction.
Although the city of Umatilla notified the Corps of its interest in managing the facility in March, the Corps did not officially notify the BIA until Aug. 6. The BIA requested the standard 90-day period to give tribes a chance to consider taking over management of the site. Tribal entities have until Oct. 30 to express an interest in the site, six weeks after the city has agreed to the transition.
“None of the tribes that are communicating with the Corps right now are interested in (taking over the site),” Ward said. “I don’t believe there is a risk right now … of some point in the future a tribal entity coming in and shutting that down. The most discouraging thing is we could have had this discussion in May.”