The Tri-Cities, especially the boating community, has lost one of its greatest advocates, Dale Metz.
He died Wednesday at age 94 at Canyon Lakes Restorative & Rehabilitation Center in Kennewick.
"He didn't suffer; it was just a slow shutdown of his systems," said his son, Kay Metz of Kennewick.
Dale Metz is best known for Metz Marina, which he established in 1954 on Clover Island in Kennewick after McNary Dam created Lake Wallula.
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"It was just a pile of rock," said Kay Metz. "But he had a dream of building a marina.
"All laughed at him, said he'd go broke, that it would never happen. But for 49 years it was very successful," he said.
Dale Metz saw the new Columbia River reservoir as a great opportunity, not just for him but for the Tri-Cities.
"Dale was a great promoter of Lake Wallula and family boating," said Dave Roberts, a longtime member of the Clover Island Yacht Club.
Metz also was instrumental in convincing other business owners to start a restaurant and a hotel on Clover Island.
In 2003, Dale and his two sons, Kay and Lynn, turned the marina over to the Port of Kennewick.
"Dale was a visionary," said Tim Arntzen, port executive director.
"He could be blunt, you always knew where you stood with him. But what we're doing now on the island is a throwback to Dale Metz. He laid the foundation of what we have now. Back then it must have been extremely difficult to convince the community that the Tri-Cities could be one of the big boating areas."
Arntzen said the port will work hard to develop the island.
"People must have thought he was crazy to hang in there and crazy for his vision, but we'll do the same thing out of respect for Dale," Arntzen said. "We'll have to be as tenacious as Dale was. He wasn't just a bulldog, he was like three or four bulldogs."
Metz was born in Alliance, Neb., growing up on a wheat and cattle ranch, said his son Kay. As a young man, he signed up for the Navy, but before he was sworn in came to theTri-Cities because he had heard there were good jobs at Hanford.
"He worked as a carpenter in the (Hanford) area until one day men in black suits came and said he was qualified to work in top security," Kay Metz said. "He became a security guard. ... He never did serve in the Navy."
Later, Metz became a Richland police officer, working up to sergeant.
While in the Tri-Cities, the farm boy discovered he loved boating, and that shaped the rest of his life and career.
Metz also was involved in the community. He helped organize the first unlimited hydroplane boat races in 1966, which grew into the annual Water Follies celebration. He was a lifetime member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, promoting family boating and safety. He also started the first boat show in the Tri-Cities.
Working with the Columbia Basin Shriners, Metz helped get 50 children to Shriners hospitals and was the driving force behind getting the American flag on top of the blue bridge.
"He always said someday this (Clover Island) will be a showplace," said Kay Metz. "Though he never saw the lighthouse or the new port building; it's been several years since he's been out there."
Metz Plaza on Clover Island will be dedicated to the Metz family at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
Services for Metz are pending. Mueller's Tri-Cities Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; email@example.com