Panel weighs safety concerns against cost in making recommendation on installation of promenade barrier
A recommendation to install a railing along the promenade on the north side of Coal Dock Park was to be considered by the Coal Dock Committee Wednesday morning.
City Administrator Mark Grams said Tuesday that he is hopeful the committee will recommend installation of a railing along the 1,000-foot-long walkway.
In a community that’s increasingly concerned about waterfront safety, he said, the railing is seen by many as an essential safety device in an area where there’s nothing to prevent someone from tumbling off the dock into the lake, where strong currents are common.
The park is a draw for tourists and residents alike, proponents of the railing note, since it was designed to be a regional attraction.
The park has also received a significant amount of acclaim, including a recent award from American City and County magazine, which gave it a Crown Communities award.
However, some people are concerned that the railing would detract from the lakefront views and take away flexibility that’s needed when large boats moor along the seawall.
The promenade was built wider than normal — 18-1/2 feet — to ensure people can enjoy the walkway and lake but stay away from the edge, they note.
Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, who is also the Coal Dock Committee chairman, said last year it would not be difficult to install the railing, noting the city considered adding one when designing the park.
But while many people are in favor of installing the railing, not everyone is on board with the idea.
“I have sensed that there’s a diversity of opinion about it on the committee,” Vanden Noven said.
“For some people, it’s just a matter of priorities. I think it’s really going to come down to dollars.”
There are committee members who believe other priorities take precedent, he said. Other amenities that the committee is working on include the installation of electric outlets and a park entrance sign, he said.
One major stumbling block to the railing is funding, Vanden Noven said, adding this may cause some committee members to think twice about recommending its installation.
The railing, which would match those along the city’s harborwalk, is estimated to cost $200,000.
The city has about $100,000 remaining in Coal Dock Park development funds that could be put toward the railing, Grams said.
Vanden Noven said he is talking to the Department of Natural Resources to see if it would amend the city’s existing stewardship grant for the park to provide additional funds for the railing.
“I don’t know if that’s possible,” he said.
The city could also apply for additional grant money, he said, noting these grant applications are typically due in November.
“I think eventually we could get a stewardship grant for it,” Grams said.
Last fall, Grams predicted that the railing would be installed this spring even though no money was placed in the 2014 budget for it, saying he believed there was enough support on the council to approve it.
Vanden Noven said that the city has been approached by the Port Washington-Saukville Jaycees about a possible fundraiser to help pay for a portion of the railing.
The club is planning a walk-run to be held in conjunction with Maritime Heritage Festival in August, and has talked to the city about donating its proceeds to the railing fund, Vanden Noven said.
But for many — including members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board, which recommended last year that the railing be installed — the time to move ahead is now. The idea of going through a summer tourist season without it is the wrong thing to do, they say.
If the committee recommends installing the railing, the Common Council could take action on the matter when it meets Tuesday, Jan. 21, Grams said.
If approved by the council, work could be done this spring, he said.