Coun­cil pon­ders ci­ti­zen’s sug­ges­tion for dock at Wilmer Park

Kent County News - - OPINION - By TR­ISH MCGEE pm­cgee@thekent­coun­tynews.com

CH­ESTER­TOWN — Town of­fi­cials have been asked to con­sider adding a dock to the wa­ter­front at Wilmer Park.

Queen Street res­i­dent Peter Rice made his pitch at the Oct. 1 coun­cil meet­ing.

He de­scribed Ch­ester­town as an “iconic coastal town.”

Be­cause of this, “any pub­lic ac­cess to the wa­ter is im­por­tant so that vis­i­tors and res­i­dents alike can en­joy it,” Rice said.

Over­all, Mayor Chris Cerino and the coun­cil were sup­port­ive of the idea, but agreed that fund­ing would be the big­gest ob­sta­cle.

Once up­grades to the townowned ma­rina are com­plete, “this would be the nat­u­ral next step,” Cerino told Rice.

Rice said the shore along Wilmer Park is an ideal lo­ca­tion for view­ing the wa­ter­front, “but its cur­rent con­di­tion greatly lim­its its use.” The area is of­ten wa­ter­logged due to high tides and rain­fall. Also, de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the old bull­head makes it a haz­ard for any­one stand­ing near the wa­ter’s edge.

Two op­tions were pre­sented.

In op­tion one, the dock would be built start­ing at the new bulk­head and ex­tend­ing into the wa­ter. This would in­crease acreage of Wilmer Park and could be used as a stage for con­certs, Rice said.

The ex­ist­ing foot­path and benches would not be af­fected.

In the sec­ond op­tion, the dock would be built over land end­ing at the new bulk­head. The foot­path and benches might need to be re­lo­cated.

A later ad­di­tion to ei­ther op­tion could be a fish­ing pier ex­tend­ing from the dock to al­low ac­cess to deeper wa­ter. The pier might en­cour­age peo­ple not to fish from the Ch­ester River bridge, Rice said.

Of the dock con­cept in gen­eral, Rice said, “All in all it’s a beau­ti­ful town and peo­ple like to be by the wa­ter. And it’s a good place to have lunch, read a book or some­thing along those lines.”

When quizzed by the coun­cil about the costs, Rice said he had not got­ten past the “idea” stage. He sug­gested that the Face­book group Ch­ester­town Life might be a good place to start so­lic­it­ing for fund­ing.

“It’s a very nice thing, it would be won­der­ful to have, but we have to pay for it. No one’s go­ing to do­nate it for us,” Coun­cil­man Marty Stet­son said.

Town Man­ager Bill Inger­soll said the project would prob­a­bly be grant el­i­gi­ble through the De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources. Friends of the project, such as those who have “liked it” on so­cial me­dia, could be a source of match­ing funds.

Coun­cil­woman Linda Kuiper said she thought there might be grant money avail­able through the his­toric John Smith Wa­ter Trail.

Inger­soll and Cerino both said they thought some of the work could be done by town em­ploy­ees, which would cut down on the cost.

There is time to seek fund­ing be­cause the project is not go­ing to hap­pen overnight, Inger­soll said. The area has to be dredged again; the last time was 1984, he said.

In the long-range plan, “when we get done with the last of our grants for the ma- rina, which were sub­stan­tial, this should be the next one that we file,” Inger­soll said.

Coun­cil­man David Fos­ter asked about us­ing the dock as a launch­ing spot for kayaks and ca­noes. He was told an area for that al­ready ex­ists to the right of the pavil­ion.

Rice said his pro­posal was for a sim­ple dock lim­ited to pedes­trian traf­fic. A fish­ing pier, to be added at any time, would be a bonus.

Cost and per­mit­ting would be sig­nif­i­cantly less if the scope of the project was lim­ited to a walk­ing area on land. The project gets much more in­volved once you start driv­ing pil­ings and dis­turb­ing Crit­i­cal Ar­eas, Cerino said.

Cerino told Rice that the idea of a dock had been in­tro­duced sev­eral years ago by a wa­ter­front com­mit­tee, which, among other things, had rec­om­mended the brick walk­way and foot bridge con­nect­ing High Street and Can­non Street.

“It’s kind of fallen by the way­side be­cause the ma­rina has be­come such an al­ba­tross and such a mon­ster for fund­ing and what­not,” the mayor said.

If a dock were to be built, Cerino said he ex­pected that the neigh­bors would want to have a seat at the table. There could be con­cerns about noise and loi­ter­ing, he said.

He sup­ported the project as a way to en­hance the area and im­prove safety.

PHOTO BY TR­ISH MCGEE

A Ch­ester­town res­i­dent has asked the town to con­sider hav­ing a dock built at the Wilmer Park wa­ter­front. Our pho­to­graph was taken Wed­nes­day, Oct. 10.

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