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The Pacific Northwest’s last remaining Coast Guard Lifeboat Station needs help

The harsh creak of rusty chains and tired groan of metal pulleys made from worn out mechanics fill the air as Kristen Penner yanks them back to life, opening the garage-like doors of the Pier’s End boathouse in Garibaldi. Sunlight floods the inside of the boathouse and echoes of suddenly-disturbed seagulls and cormorants escape on the breeze.
The old rail lines inside the Garibaldi Boathouse.
An old rail line that runs the length of the boathouse jets several more hundred feet beyond the open door before disappearing into the water. The rail lines allowed the boats to be rapidly launched fully-manned into the water – enabling the rescue mission to get a running start, if you will.
Opening the garage-like doors of the Pier’s End boathouse in Garibaldi.
“This is where the Coast Guard launched the lifeboats,” Penner explained.
The United States Coast Guard once housed two 36-foot life boats and one 26-foot oar-powered surfboat in what is now commonly referred to as “The Pier’s End.”
But, the boathouse was decommissioned in the early 1960s when 44-foot lifeboats became the norm, and eventually the Port of Garibaldi took over ownership of the defunct Coast Guard Lifeboat Station.
Now, the 80-year-old building just sits at the end of a 760-foot boardwalk, its windows covered in bird droppings, insulation drooping from the ceiling – and nothing but memories left of its former glory days.
Until now.
Penner is part of the Garibaldi Cultural Heritage Initiative, a 501(c)3 non-profit aimed at – among other things – restoring and rehabilitating the boathouse and creating a cultural space that can tell the fascinating history of the area.
“As you walk out onto the pier, everything changes,” Penner said. “You get this brand-new perspective of the coastline, the winds change, even the weather is different out here. It’s a nice way to experience the bay without being on a boat, and it creates this opportunity to view the area and the industries here from a different angle.
The view from the Garibaldi Boathouse.
“We want to bring people out here to experience that and to tell them the stories of how Garibaldi and Tillamook Bay came to be what they are today.”
Recently, Rockaway Beach resident and photographer Mike Arseneault has taken an interest in the project and is spearheading endeavors with Penner to get the word out about saving this boathouse.
“People are drawn to it,” he said. “They walk out here to crab and fish and they want to know what it is and what its story is. This boathouse could be our vessel for storytelling.”
The laundry list of repairs and project needs are lengthy – from replacing the pilings to restoring the pier itself. It’s enough to make anyone think twice about getting involved, but it’s one of the most important projects happening on the Coast right now, Arseneault said.
The Garibaldi Boathouse is in need of serious repairs.
“It’s incredibly important that we preserve the pieces of our history that are left,” he said. “It’s important to this community, and it’s even more important that we realize when it’s gone, it’s gone. There are no more of these Lifeboat Stations left in the Pacific Northwest and we need to step up and take care of it, because if we don’t we will lose it forever.”
This urgency for action is why Arseneault coined the hashtag #savetheboathouse as a way to generate interest in the project and collect stories and photographs that will help preserve its legacy.
“We are actively looking for people who can share their memories of the boathouse and their photographs, so we can begin to compile those into a cultural center that tells the story of the bay,” he said.
The Garibaldi Boathouse is commonly referred to as “The Pier’s End.”
Ultimately, Penner and Arseneault dream of a living museum – a space that can keep the history of Tillamook Bay alive, and be a cultural meeting hub where groups can gather for events, meetings, educational opportunities and more.
“Not just another museum, but a place that still breathes and has life and where people can come and experience this place in all different kinds of ways,” he said.
There is even a kitchen and loft upstairs that could make catered events and additional group gatherings a possibility.
Until then, Arseneault and Penner, along with the rest of the Garibaldi Cultural Heritage Initiative, are planning a fundraising kick-off event in the fall to start spreading the group’s mission.
Source: Visit Tillamook Coast

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