Heart This Place – Tramp Harbor and KVI Beach
Written by Kate Kelly, 12th Grade, Vashon High School
Photos by Davis Kelly, 10th Grade, Vashon High School
To celebrate Preservation Month from home, we have launched Heart This Place – a new blog series from Historic Seattle staff. Each post will feature a different place that is significant to a member of our staff. Next up, Executive Director Kji Kelly’s children Kate and Davis do some research into Tramp Harbor and KVI Beach:
Point Heyer, known as KVI Beach to residents of Vashon, was unofficially named after KVI Radio purchased the spit of sand and built a 431-foot radio tower in 1936. KVI Beach is the northern boundary of Tramp Harbor, located on the east side of Vashon Island. Now owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, KVI Beach surrounds tidal salt marshes, which are an essential ecosystem to migrating birds, specific types of grasses, and numerous species of crabs, shellfish, and fish that find shelter in the marsh. This natural barrier lagoon is the largest in King County. In an attempt to preserve and protect the lagoon and habitat, the County has been proactively acquiring waterfront land to the north of the beach for many years.
Tramp Harbor has played an important role in the development of the Island. Vashon’s first automobile ferry dock was built on Tramp Harbor soon after a new highway was built connecting Seattle and Des Moines in 1916. This new car dock was located between two existing passenger docks at Portage and Ellisport that served the “Mosquito Fleet.” In 1922, instead of sending cars from Tramp Harbor to Des Moines, then driving north to Seattle, traffic was directed straight downtown to Colman Dock from a newly constructed dock on the north end of Vashon. (My parents will beg and plead with anyone who cares to listen, now that the West Seattle Bridge is closed, to once again re-direct cars to Colman Dock!) After cars began to leave the island from the north end, the Tramp Harbor dock was leased by the Standard Oil Company and was repurposed to bring gasoline, kerosene, oil, and diesel fuel to Vashon Island. The dock was used for this industrial purpose until the mid-1980s, when the dock was once again re-purposed and opened as a public fishing pier.
We, and so many other Islanders, spend many summer days at KVI Beach and on the protected waters of Tramp Harbor. Since our house faces the beach, it is the first thing we see when we get up and the last thing we see when we go to bed. With dogs playing fetch, the inlet off the south side of the beach being the perfect place to paddleboard, and an endless amount of beach glass you can find amongst the rocks, KVI is one of the most popular beaches on Vashon Island. With the beach and harbor being just a short walk from our home, we feel lucky to get to grow up in this magical place.