Olympia Harbor Patrol deserves another chance

A lack of state grant funding is blamed for the coming demise of the Olympia Harbor Patrol next month. That’s too bad for a city perched on Puget Sound with a celebrated maritime history.

Surely there is a way our community can find resources to continue the 30-year-old program that keeps a helping hand nearby on the city’s main waterway on weekends.

The patrol relies on a cadre of volunteers willing to give up their time and share their boating expertise, and they are not looking to be paid. They just need a little money to run the boat used to patrol the areas around Budd Inlet and even assist in searches for bodies, when called to help by authorities.

The patrol’s volunteers pulled a kayaker to safety from chilly Budd Inlet last November, and over the years they have towed boats to safety, cleared debris, and kept an eye on the condition of buoys and harbor activities.

The program grew out of a Sea Scouts’ explorer group that began in the 1970, and until now responsibility for it fell on the Olympia Police Department. Under terms of the state parks grants relied on previously, the program needed a commissioned officer available. The patrol’s 28-foot boat has been moored at the Port of Olympia’s Swantown Marina.

With the grant, the city is unable or unwilling to make up the $30,000 budget mainly needed for fuel and boat expenses. Unfortunately, Harbor Patrol has landed on a city list of more than $2 million unfunded budget priorities that in the current spending cycle.

That should not doom the program, which may not require a police officer on the boat without the strings of a state grant. So far, advocates say the Port of Olympia and county Sheriff’s Office have declined to step in, but we think a restructured program with small assistance from the county, port and city could give new life to the Harbor Patrol.