Council ponders citizen’s suggestion for dock at Wilmer Park
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.
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.