After 33 years the Discovery Bay Salmon Derby held in February has been canceled.
A press release sent out Wednesday, Dec. 23 said the derby held every year on President’s Day Weekend since 1973 will not occur, “due to an unresolved conflict over rights to the derby.”
The derby was part of 18 derbies in the Northwest Marine Trade Association’s annual Northwest Salmon Derby Series.
“This is very disappointing news, not only to the organizers and how they have successfully run this derby for 33 years but also as a major derby in the derby series,” said Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association based in Seattle.
“It has been known as the “Ironman Derby” and had attendance records broke in 2009 with 810 anglers, so everything was going right,” Floor said. “It is unfortunate that the derby will no longer exist under its current format especially since it has come so far and has been so successful for Northwest anglers over time.”
A core group of Gardiner residents ran this fundraising event each, and early derbies focused on the Gardiner boat ramp, but they had expanded in recent years to additional ramps in Port Townsend and Sequim.
Last year, more than 800 tickets were sold, and over $16,500 in prizes were awarded. Derby proceeds were contributed to Gardiner’s local fire department – over $50,000 since 2006.
The conflict is over who has the right to run future derbies. Last year, Gardiner residents petitioned to change their emergency response district, leaving Jefferson County Fire District Number 5 in September to join Clallam County Fire District Number 3, with its new fire station in nearby Blyn.
Gardiner remains part of Jefferson County. Gardiner volunteers had expected to continue running the annual salmon derby, but this was contested by Jefferson County Fire District Number 5.
The matter remained unresolved through this month, so the Gardiner derby committee has been forced to cancel the 2010 event.
Dan Tatum, a major figure in all recent derbies, was disappointed.
“We apologize to all our loyal supporters that we couldn’t resolve this situation,” Tatum said. “And we apologize to the volunteers who already did so much work this year. We should have dealt with this last summer, but we never expected the problem because the derby association was a local organization independent of the fire district.”
Local restaurants, merchants, and hotels will no doubt miss the off-season traffic normally generated by the event.
But, Tatum thinks the biggest impact will be in Gardiner.
“It just won’t be the same here without our derby,” Tatum said. “We drew families of participants from all over the region. The tradition spans three generations. It’s a waste.”
Tatum was asked if another derby in 2011 is possible?
“Who knows?,” Tatum said. “Running a derby takes a huge amount of volunteer work and personal contact. Legal headaches have made that impossible.”
Floor responded, “we hope they can get it back on track in 2011.”