'Kennewick' picked for new ferry

KENNEWICK — Kennewick will get to have its name emblazoned on a 64-car ferry.

The state Transportation Commission voted Tuesday on the names for the next two ferries that will be added to the fleet of 23 that ply the state's sound and straits for the benefit of commuters and tourists.

Kennewick was one of five nominations being considered as finalists.

"This is really a cool thing," said Bob Hammond, Kennewick city manager, after being told about Kennewick's newest claim to fame.

The Kennewick City Council approved a resolution supporting the application, saying the name refers to "grassy place," and that the community is known for mild winters and early nautical history when steamboats ran on the Snake and Columbia rivers, and is home to both the 9,300-year-old Kennewick Man skeleton and the state fossil, the Columbia mammoth.

But the idea to name a ferry for Kennewick wasn't a homegrown suggestion. It was suggested by a west-side resident, Michael Fox of Bainbridge Island.

Fox developed an interest in Washington's ferries because his late father took him along as a child while servicing the state's maritime vessels.

Fox, who described himself as a "ferry boat fan my entire life," said he also discovered Eastern Washington while on trips with his father.

That is why he suggested Kahlotus and Washtucna along with Kennewick when suggesting ferry names to the state commission last spring.

"It's nice news to come home to. I think my father would be very happy that the name we had talked about as a good choice was finally chosen," Fox said.

Fox said the Kennewick ferry will be built in the summer of 2011 and could be in the water by the end of next year.

Fox said state officials told him the odds of Kennewick being chosen could improve greatly if he got city officials and the city council to endorse it.

Kennewick's Linda Spier, administrative assistant to the police chief, took on the challenge and prepared the nomination packet.

Kennewick Mayor Steve Young said during Tuesday's city council workshop that he was very proud of the new name and he made a point of commending Spier for doing a great job of preparing the application packet.

The other name chosen by the commission is Salish, which refers to a coastal Native American people and is the name for the coastal sea comprised of the Juan de Fuca Strait, the Strait of Georgia and the Puget Sound.

Washington State Ferries operates the largest ferry fleet in the United States.

Twenty-three ferries cross Puget Sound and its inland waterways, carrying more than 23 million passengers to 20 different ports of call, according to the Washington Department of Transportation website.

* John Trumbo: 509-582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com