MASTER OF THE HARBOR

Nichols takes pride in caring for the marina and park that he visited with his family decades ago.

John Nichols, 60, park manager and harbor master for Umatilla Marina and RV Park is proud the 53 acres he maintains — especially the now weed-free swimming area.

Nichols is in charge of the park located along the south bank of the Columbia River near the Oregon-Washington I-82 bridge, and he's seems anxious for folks to utilize the facility.

"I want to get the people of the community back here using the beach," he said. "We have a nice little park."

Nichols began watching over the park and marina last fall.

He is assisted by part-time employee Ray Casteel. The two have kept the facility, owned by the Corps of Engineers and maintained by the Port of Umatilla, in ship-shape condition.

They even tore into the weeds growing along the beach of the swimming area.

Nichols, Casteel, and Mike Wister from Green Thumb Landscaping in Pendleton, plowed under sand burrs and puncture vines growing along the sandy bank of the inlet.

"We took it upon ourselves to take the beach back," said Nichols, a retired U.S. Navy chief. "We also went down there with hoes and rakes. We cleaned it up pretty good. Now it's nothing but sand. I'm very happy with it."

He says the park sees a lot of activity with boats coming and going at the marina docks, and folks utilizing the RV park during the spring, summer and fall months, but the park itself does not see much traffic.

The park has 150 marina slips, 26 RV spots, a hand full of tent spots, and three large restroom facilities (down for winter maintenance), and a couple of horse shoe pits.

"People can come down and pitch horse shoes and picnic," he said.

Nichols has a soft spot in his heart for his park from earlier years when his family spent many hours on the beach.

"When we first moved here in '76, my wife, Ruth, and I had a whole bunch of foster kids," he said. "Ruth and the kids would come down with their swim suits and a picnic. I'd come down after work."

Nichols wears many hats in his job with the marina. He serves as grounds keeper, plumber, concrete pourer, carpenter, and public relations person. He calls his job a "never ending fix-it" position.

"I'm a jack-of-all-trades and master of none," Nichols said.

The park's well-used marina boasts 36 new, covered slips.

"We have gas, diesel and bagged ice," Nichols said.

Two major walleye tournaments and one bass tournament are held at the facility.

"Plus, we support Boardman's walleye tournament and other events," he said.

Ray Casteel mows the lawns Monday and Tuesdays.

"He is my weekend relief on Wednesdays and Thursdays," Nichols said. "Someone has to be here 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That's the restricting part of the job that takes some getting used to."

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