The Block Island Times

Harbormaster seeks new building at Boat Basin

By Renée Meyer | Dec 18, 2013

The Block Island Land Trust’s meeting on Monday, Dec. 9, was Harbormaster Steve Land’s first foray into presenting his proposal for a new facility to replace the existing Harbormaster’s “shack” near the Boat Basin. The current shack sits on a barge that, according to Land, only has one or two years left before the decking becomes too deteriorated to be used.

Land presented the Land Trust members with preliminary plans for a new dock and facility utilizing the K & H property, which the Land Trust owns and is located between the Mott’s property and Ball O’Brien park.

While acknowledging the generosity of the Oar Restaurant for providing bathroom facilities to the general public, Land noted that the facility is inadequate and overused, causing it to typically become “a mess” within an hour of being cleaned. “We’re bursting at the seams right now,” said Land. In his proposal, he envisions a facility that would include 10 bathroom stalls each, for men and women, and an equal number of showers.

The plan also calls for a new dock. One side of the dock would be used for the Harbormaster’s boat and another vessel, and the other side as a dinghy dock. The dock would have stairs that would go all the way into the water so that it would be accessible at any tide level.

As for the shack itself, Land envisions it as being larger, by about four feet on each side, and hopes that it would be manned and open all day in order to serve as a welcoming and educational center. Also included would be a walkway with benches and informational plaques, and a turn-around area for taxis. Land felt this would make it a public-use spot that could be a center of activity for the pond.

“It’s a big project and it would be expensive, but the benefits would exceed the cost,” said Land.

He mentioned that Newport had constructed a similar facility in an old armory that was quite successful. The Land Trust members thought the project was appealing, and asked what the projected cost would be.

Land estimated that it would cost approximately $2 million to build, some of which would need to be bonded, and some of which could come from grants, noting that the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has “tons of grants for bathrooms.”

Trustee Denny Heinz suggested contacting the DEM and the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) as a next step before spending any significant funds on the project, and Town Manager Nancy Dodge concurred, but also encouraged Land to make sure that he requested money for engineering in this coming year’s capital budget.

Moving on to other matters, Trustees discussed a plan presented by Harold (“Turtle”) Hatfield for a new access path from the Ocean View Foundation property down to the beach below.

After discussing alternate routes, all agreed that the new path should utilize an existing deer path that veers off to the left of the path approaching the pavilion from the road below the Post Office building. It would follow the contours of the hill and avoid any steep areas.

Hatfield’s plan would utilize a wooden walkway for a portion of it, and the trustees discussed what other alternatives could be used to decrease the likelihood of slippage and splinters that could arise from the use of wood before giving Hatfield the green light to contact the CRMC about going forward.

In other matters, the trustees put together bid packages for mowing and wall clearing on several of its properties, accepted the monthly treasurer’s report ($122,133.75 collected in transfer fees in November) and were briefed by attorney Joe Priestly on the status of an application by the Estate of Lee S. Cushman currently before the Planning Board.

The board then moved into closed session to discuss matters “of acquisition and litigation.” When they returned to public session, they went on to tackle a request from the DEM for a letter of support for its plan to cull the deer herd down to a “sustainable” level of 100 animals over five years.

Chair Barbara MacMullan thought the plan was well thought out. Others in attendance noted the group that would do the culling (White Buffalo, Inc.) had a website with valuable information as to the method that would be used. The trustees had been provided with a template for the letter, as had several other island organizations.

After some discussion, and going through the template paragraph by paragraph, the trustees agreed to support the plan “in principle.”

Lastly, after acknowledging the receipt of an archeological survey (a copy will be made available in the town clerk’s office) the Land Trust got together with the Block Island Conservancy for a special open session to discuss and vote on a conceptual plan for the recently acquired Solviken property along Corn Neck Road.

(See related article here.)

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