The February 2010 salmon derby on Discovery Bay has been canceled because of an unresolved conflict over rights to the derby.
Since 1973, a core group of Gardiner residents ran this fundraising event each Presidents Weekend. Early derbies focused on the Gardiner boat ramp but they expanded in recent years to additional ramps in Port Townsend and Sequim.
The conflict centers around who has the right to run future derbies. In 2009, Gardiner residents petitioned to change their emergency response district, leaving Jefferson County Fire District No. 5 in September to join Clallam County Fire District No. 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 No. 5. The matter remained unresolved in late December, so the Gardiner derby committee has been forced to cancel the 2010 event.
Dan Tatum, a major derby organizer, said he is 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."
In 2009, more than 800 tickets were sold and more than $16,500 in prizes awarded. Derby proceeds were contributed to Gardiner's local fire department, more than $50,000 since 2006.
Local restaurants, merchants and hotels no doubt will miss the off-season traffic normally generated by the event, Tatum said. But he said he thinks the biggest impact will be in Gardiner.
"It just won't be the same here without our derby, Tatum said. "The same neighbors and local businesses have been coming together each year. We drew families of participants from all over the region. The tradition spans three generations. It's a waste."
As for the future of the salmon derby, Tatum said it's unclear.
"Who knows? Running a derby takes a huge amount of volunteer work and personal contact. Legal headaches have made that impossible."
The derby had been a feature of the Northwest Marine Trade Association's annual Northwest Salmon Derby Series. Since other regional derbies have expressed interest in taking over the Presidents Day slot, the future of any Discovery Bay derby may be moot.
This year's salmon derby was slated for Feb. 13-15 with a top prize of $5,000. The 2010 event had an added prize to its standard prizes for biggest daily fish, "Valentine's Day" prize and grand prize: a $500 "mystery fish" prize selected randomly from all catches.