Commentary: Rebuilding the Ridgefield waterfront is a duty and not a choice


Our Ridgefield waterfront is a treasure: the only publicly owned waterfront in our community, with public amenities and connections to downtown and world-class natural resources. And like any treasure, it took a great deal of time and effort to uncover.

Today’s quiet waterfront was originally the site of most of the industrial activity in Ridgefield for nearly a century. Scores of businesses and hundreds of people have worked on this property since it was Shobert’s Landing, then Union Ridge, and finally Ridgefield. Though it was owned by the Port of Ridgefield since our formation in the 1940s, there was no public access due to the industrial nature of the site.

When port tenant Pacific Wood Treating shut down in 1993, we had to think hard about the future of the site, the investment required, and what the public would expect of us once it was complete. So when the port and our local, state and federal partners undertook the cleanup work, the basis was future environmental and economic health. The state of Washington evaluated its $90 million investment in the project based on the waterfront’s ability, once cleaned up, to support jobs and revenue to the community and region.

The port, City of Ridgefield, and multiple state and federal agencies worked together to investigate, identify, and clean up massive industrial contamination in the water and soil at the site. We demolished a dozen buildings, addressed the contamination there and on nearby properties, and built the Pioneer Street Rail Overpass to safely connect our downtown to our community’s waterfront.

It took over 20 years and over $90 million to transform the Ridgefield waterfront from a toxic industrial site to a place that can support jobs, commerce, and quality of life for our future — all with our community’s needs and interests at heart.

It was always the plan to rebuild the Ridgefield waterfront. The port and city have been planning the future of the site since the early days of cleanup, and capital investment in the waterfront and connecting downtown has been a part of both agencies’ comprehensive plans since the 1990s. The purpose? To bring economic opportunity back to the waterfront for the Ridgefield of today.

Economic opportunity is what ports in Washington state are charged to do, and it’s the Port of Ridgefield’s mission and purpose. To have invested millions in public dollars and leave the site economically unproductive would be a failure of this charge, as well as of the trust given by our partners that funds would be invested in good faith to return benefit to the community, state and nation.

We are at a new and exciting phase in this process to reimagine and rebuild the Ridgefield waterfront. Over the past year we have been gathering information from our community and developing a vision that includes adding a waterfront park and public access alongside economic opportunity.

We look forward to continuing to work with our longtime partners and hear input from everyone on the next phase of this critical project, and developing and implementing the plan to rebuild our waterfront with a vision that strengthens our economy, community and environment.


Randy Mueller is the chief executive officer of the Port of Ridgefield.