Swantown History

In 1970, realizing the downside of dependence on log exports, the Port commission and managers moved to change the Port’s course and plan for the future. By 1973, the Port had completed its seven-year-long effort to secure all of the property on the East Bay side of what would come to be known as the “Port Peninsula.” Approximately 15 acres were purchased and the Port began to seek a long list of governmental approvals to develop the area for water dependent recreational use. Plans were developed by then Port engineer Dick Malin that continues to guide the marina development to this day.

The first phase of the East Bay Marina project was completed in 1979. The new uplands for the marina were created by filling 54 acres of former tidelands log storage areas with gravel that was imported and dredged bottom land from the East Bay Slough historically called Swan’s Slough into the area.

By 1982, the first phase of the planned 1100 slip, full-service marina was completed. This portion of the development included 540 boat slips, a floating breakwater, guest moorage facility, access roads, restrooms and utility buildings. Public access facilities were also featured including a shoreside esplanade, boat launch ramp, walking trails, mini-parks and landscaping.
After five years of private lease management, the Port took over operation of the marina in 1987. As Port business diversification became the highest priority in the new comprehensive plan, East Bay Marina became a focal point and additional plans for expansion and business development were created. Marketing and communication plans were developed, professional management was hired and an emphasis on service that lives on to this day was established. As these plans were instituted, occupancy in the marina and usage of the property by the general public grew.

In 1995, East Bay Marina’s name was changed to Swantown Marina to reflect the historical significance of John Swan, an early pioneer that founded the area around the marina and to offer a branding identification to assist with marketing of the business.

By 1996, occupancy in many slip sizes at the marina had reached 100% utilization and business pressures mounted to construct a boatyard at Swantown. In March 1999, Swantown Boatworks opened. This environmentally friendly, boat haulout, maintenance and storage facility offered a do-it-yourself boatyard geared towards the area's recreational boating population. Within two years a marine services building was constructed at the boatyard and a thriving boat repair industry was born in Olympia.

A group of area rowing enthusiasts approached the Port in 2000 with a dream of developing a rowing boathouse to accommodate the growing demand for rowing programs in the south sound area. Within a few years, the Olympia Area Rowing Association had raised enough money to lease land from the Port and build a state of the art building to house their programs.

In 2000, plans were finalized to expand Swantown Marina to accommodate the demand for additional moorage slips in the area. By 2003 a total of 157 new slips had been constructed and uplands parking and a marina support building had been completed. The slips quickly filled and Swantown Marina increased its capacity to 733 permanent and guest slips.

By 2009, the original in-water improvements were beginning to show signs of use. A major renovation of GHI and JKL docks was completed and additional amenities such as wireless internet, electronic card key access and other facility upgrades were undertaken. In that year plans and permits were finalized for another marina expansion that would add another 159 slip, a visitors dock and upland support facilities to the area adjacent to the Boatyard. In 2010, a new trailer boat parking and view point area was constructed on the former Cascade Pole site and the recreational walking trail was extended.

Today Swantown is the seventh largest marina in the state and the center of recreational boating activities in the South Sound. John Swan would be proud of the development that has taken place on his former property and the community amenities that are offered to boaters, residents and visitors alike in a place called “Swantown.”