The newly created harbor advisory committee that aims to give constituents regular reports on the harbor revitalization’s construction progress and improve transparency over the project has been impaneled, Orange County Fifth District Board Supervisor Katrina Foley announced Friday, July 28.
Community figures such as Mayor Mike Frost and Ocean Institute President and CEO Wendy Marshall will sit on the committee alongside local boaters and members of the general public, as well as owners of harbor businesses like Jon’s Fish Market and Westwind Sailing.
The committee, which Foley announced plans to create during the Dana Point Civic Association’s monthly Coffee Chat in March, will meet regularly to act as a “third party objective overseer of the project,” Foley said.
“What I heard a lot from the community over the last year was there was a feeling of, there’s a lot of misperceptions one; two there was a feeling of distrust of the process and a feeling that there was no oversight in the project,” Foley said.
Foley noted that when she first initiated the committee, her goal was to have a group of individuals who can look over contracts, income and revenue, and work on addressing community concerns to see if there are any initiatives that could be brought forth or suggested to the Harbor Partners.
“I want (the committee) to respond to the community concerns and I think this will allow us more oversight, more transparency and hopefully we can gain some better trust from the greater community about the project, which I think is ultimately a really fabulous project,” Foley said.
The harbor advisory committee will not only oversee the $400 million harbor revitalization but also the county-run portion of the harbor including Baby Beach and the OC Sailing and Events Center.
“They can be my eyes and ears and can help make recommendations that will benefit the harbor as a whole, and that’s not just as it relates to the Dana Point Harbor Partners piece of the harbor, but for me, we have the county piece also,” Foley said. “So, I want their insights, I want their recommendations and I want their oversight so that we can improve the quality of the entire harbor.”
The harbor advisory committee includes a representative from the City of Dana Point, a representative of the Ocean Institute, two business representatives, two boaters and two members of the public.
In total, Foley’s office received 33 applications for the boater and public representative positions. Those interested in being on the committee submitted a short application including their resumes and a letter of interest, Foley explained.
“So, we had people identify whether or not they were a boater, or whether they had a small business or a larger business in the harbor, whether they had some interest as a public member,” Foley said.
“We also will include, of course, a representative from OC Parks, from the real estate office at the county, and then the Dana Point Harbor Partners,” Foley continued.
Representing the City of Dana Point will be Mayor Frost, who said that while the harbor is owned by the county, “we at the city deal with all the stakeholders in the Harbor and want to help ensure a successful project for everyone.”
Jon’s Fish Market owner Shala Manseur and Westwind Sailing Executive Director Diane Wenzel were selected to represent businesses in the harbor.
Having run Westwind Sailing in the harbor for 37 years, Wenzel said she’s seen a lot of changes over the years.
“I’ve dealt with everything as a business owner from changes from Parks to Harbor Department to all the different changes and navigating all of that,” Wenzel said. “Just seeing a lot of things coming and going and changing in the harbor and learning from folks along the way; met a lot of people along the way.”
As a small business owner focused on boating safety, Wenzel said she’s excited to focus on marine safety and public access to the harbor.
Wenzel added that as the harbor has gotten crowded with more kayak and stand-up paddle boarders, she hopes to keep the various watercrafts moving safely on the water.
“I really want to see this harbor stay very accessible and available to our community and that small harbor feel and serve our constituents that utilize our harbor,” Wenzel said.
“I’m just really appreciative of Supervisor Foley for her commitment to our harbor and transparency and our harbor community,” Wenzel continued. “She really is putting effort into learning about what’s going on and doing what’s best for our harbor and the people that utilize it.”
Manseur said that after a lot of misunderstanding with the public on the harbor revitalization, she felt the committee would be “a great communication tool.” Manseur added that she’s excited to help facilitate communication with the public and give her input as a business owner and help navigate the changes to come in the harbor.
“We’re dealing with a very small harbor with big ideas,” Manseur said, adding that she’s excited to offer ideas on how to improve on the harbor.
“I’m really proud to be a part of it because I have a lot of love for the Partners and what they’re doing and what they are trying to do so far,” Manseur continued. “They’ve shown nothing but care for the long haul.”
A 43-year-old business in the harbor, Jon’s Fish Market has seen a lot of changes over the years, Manseur said.
“I embrace change and functioning change and trying to bring a better round of things,” Manseur said. “I love to see growth happen in a healthy way.”
San Clemente resident Robert Langan and Dana Point resident Dennis Parks were selected to represent boaters. San Juan Capistrano residents Darcie Harris and Colin Harris are to serve as the public representatives. Marshall, the Ocean Institute president, will represent the educational nonprofit, and a boatswain of the Mariners 936 was selected as an honorary member.
Foley explained that for the time being, the plan is for the committee to meet monthly and prepare public reports that will be published on her website and newsletter.
The committee will hold its first meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 2.
In addition to the committee meetings, Foley aims to have two town halls every year to discuss the harbor project.