RV Park Raises $30K in Memory of Beloved Staffer
Discovery Bay RV Park residents near Gardiner, Wash., inspired after a beloved friend died in a three-car crash while attempting to turn off U.S. Highway 101 to get home, have raised $30,000 to add an eastbound left-turn lane into the park, the Peninsula Daily News reported.
State Department of Transportation engineers said work to re-stripe Highway 101 to accommodate a 100-foot left-turn pocket lane in front of the RV park will begin in the spring.
The re-striping will be done within the existing surface of the highway, which will not be altered.
The left-turn pocket will allow motorists to move around a vehicle waiting to drive into the park, a right-side passing move that is not legal today.
Donations came from 73 people — including park residents and vendors — with some funds from a benefit auction that sold pies for big bucks.
During the fund drive, one resident gave $5,000, said Lynn Kauffman, board president for the Discovery Bay Leaseholders Association, which owns and operates the park on a hillside south of the highway overlooking the scenic bay.
"It was amazing," Kauffman said Wednesday at the park, which has about 85 residents in the summer months.
"We had a huge benefit auction in August. We auctioned off homemade pies. One pie went for $120.
"I hope it was good," Kauffman added with a laugh.
"This is the most money our organization has ever raised."
The pie sale raised $1,200. The fundraising campaign kicked off Aug. 3 and by October generated the needed $30,000 that Transportation estimated the left-turn lane would cost, she said.
Businesses and others donating to the project were Sequim Valley Pumps, Kim Redmond Bookkeeping, Mountain Propane, Hair by Heidi, Gilles Construction, Alderwood Bistro, State Farm agent Steven Williams, Sally Lovell, Judy Cates Estate and Steven and Diane Ross.
After the park's residents came up with the money and presented a check to the state, a letter of understanding was written up by Dale Severson, Transportation's Olympic Region development services engineer.
The letter said that any costs over $30,000 would be absorbed by the state and that if the project came in under the amount, the state would give the park a refund.
Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer, said the re-striping for the Highway 101 left-turn pocket would amount to three lanes at 11 feet wide each with two 4-foot-wide shoulders.
No roadway widening will be necessary, he said, calling it "a very typical left-turn lane" that has been used on other parts of Highway 101 from Port Angeles to Discovery Bay.
"We don't have the budget to do a lot of widening, so we go in there and fine-tune things," he said.
The fundraising effort was inspired by the death of Judy Ann Cates, parks office manager, who died at the age of 59 in a March 1 crash as she tried to get home.
Cates' 2002 Saturn four-door was clipped on its right rear end by a vehicle that was attempting to drive around her, spinning Cates' car into the westbound lane where it was struck from behind by a larger oncoming sport utility vehicle.
She was pronounced dead at the scene, her car extensively crushed and compressed from behind.
Park residents last summer created a memorial garden in Cates' name near the recreation center.
Nicki Sexton — the park's manager, who worked with Cates, a retired librarian — said she was so traumatized after the crash that she had to close her office for a week.
Cates, who had successfully opposed a $3 million truck-passing lane proposal because of its potential danger, had been a strong supporter of constructing a left-turn lane.
State Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, was both surprised and impressed that the RV park's residents raised the $30,000.
"Kudos to them," he said. "That's awesome."
Van De Wege — who represents the 24th District, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County — had worked with Transportation officials to kill the truck-passing lane proposal.
After Cates' death, he and a representative from the office of Sen. Jim Hargrove, also of the 24th District, along with Jefferson County Commissioner John Austin and state Transportation engineers, got together with an RV park safety committee formed in April to come up with a solution.
Those on the safety committee were Susan Thrune, Sheila Khalov, Jane Meyer, Lynn Kauffman and Klaus Hintermayr.
During the meeting, Transportation agreed to post five signs warning of left turns ahead along the two-mile stretch fronting Gardiner and the RV park.
"A lot of times, my job is just getting credible constituents talking to the right people," Van De Wege said.
Austin, whose district includes Gardiner, said he, too, was surprised that the RV park's residents came through.
"Wow, that's very cool," said Austin, who was re-elected to a second four-year term earlier this month.
"Kevin's [political] weight is probably what did it. I think it's wonderful news."