Columbia River Maritime Museum pond

The Columbia River Maritime Museum is planning a park with a pond for sailing model boats at the site of the former North Coast Auto Service.

The Columbia River Maritime Museum has received $300,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to help build a model boat sailing pond and park on the site of the former North Coast Auto Service.

The museum purchased the former auto dealership and mechanics shop in 2017 and demolished the building to make way for the Depot Commons. The park will include a pond, along with a utility building, bathrooms and a kiosk to hold model boats. It will host field trips, summer camps and public rentals.

The grant represents the final one-third of the cost of the project, while the rest is borne by donations, said Bruce Jones, the deputy director of the museum and Astoria’s mayor.

Steve Moore, the executive director of the Murdock trust, said in a news release that the organization awarded the grant because of the project’s promise of bringing educational and historical subjects to life in ways that will inspire and entertain.

“The Columbia River Maritime Museum collects, preserves, displays and interprets the maritime history and culture of the Columbia River, its tributaries, and the waters of the North Pacific with engaging methods,” he said. “We are grateful to partner with them as they work to inspire the next generation of engineers as well as inform and educate local students and families.”

The museum still needs approval from the Planning Commission to transition the former auto dealership into a park.

Construction on the pond could begin in May, with a ribbon-cutting during the 125th Astoria Regatta Festival in August, Jones said. The pond and surrounding park will be open to the public but include security cameras and lighting to deter bad behavior.

“Since our purchase of the North Coast Auto property removed just under $7,000 in annual property tax from the county tax rolls, we believe it’s important to return a greater value to the community by opening the park to the public, maintained by the museum, and by reopening a viewshed of the historic train depot and Columbia River which had been blocked for many decades,” Jones wrote in an email.

Nate Sandel, director of education at the museum, said the park will include a wide array of boats for different ages and skill levels, from single-piece wooden hulls to radio-controlled vessels. The museum is still working out how public rentals will work.

‘We’ll have a flag on the kiosk we’ll raise to let people know it’s open,” he said.

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

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