Club wants land the city is intent on selling to remain public and is asking for residents to join the cause
Even as Port Washington officials continue their quest to solicit proposals to develop city-owned lakefront land along the north slip, members of the Greater Port Washington Kiwanis Club are soliciting ideas for a park they would like to create on the same parcel.
The club will hold a public meeting in the community room at the Niederkorn Library from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, to solicit ideas for the park.
“The Kiwanis Club wants to get a number of people together who are interested in creating a functional, attractive green space there,” club secretary John Sigwart said Monday. “That means so many things to people. We want people to think out of the box and come up with ideas.”
The meeting will also help the club develop a core of volunteers to drive the effort to create Kiwanis Park, Sigwart said.
Earlier this month, just before the Common Council voted to declare the property at the end of the north slip surplus land — paving the way for its possible sale — the club made a bid to create Kiwanis Park on the parcel.
Almost a dozen people at the meeting asked aldermen not to put the land up for sale, saying lakefront property is a precious asset that should be retained by the community, not sold.
A petition asking the city to consider retaining the property as green space has already garnered hundreds of signatures, and Pat Wilborn, who is coordinating the drive, said he hopes that total will reach 1,000 signatures in the coming weeks.
That, said Wilborn, may get the attention of aldermen who have so far not been receptive to the group’s concerns.
But Sigwart said the Kiwanis Club is not involved in the petition drive, adding the group has for years been hoping to create a Kiwanis Park in the city.
“We want to work cooperatively with the city,” he said.
The land along the north slip provides a perfect opportunity for the club and the city, he said.
Its location makes it an ideal place to develop a spot where transient boaters, marina tenants, their guests, residents and tourists could relax with a picnic lunch, Sigwart said.
The property is about halfway between Upper Lake Park and the South Beach, making it a natural resting spot, he said, and it is along the Ozaukee Interurban Trail, so bikers would also likely stop there.
“What I like about Kiwanis Park there is its availability to so many people,” Sigwart said.
A multi-level seating area could be created that would give people better access to the water while not hindering views from surrounding properties, he said.
“There are a lot of opportunities,” Sigwart said. “We just need to identify them.”
This isn’t the first time the Kiwanis Club has looked at the land at the end of the north slip for a park, Sigwart noted.
When the club was seeking a location for Possibility Playground, it was the last site crossed off the list before Upper Lake Park was selected for the play area, Sigwart said.
The development of Kiwanis Park could be done much like Possibility Playground, Sigwart added.
The club would take ideas from the Jan. 22 meeting and incorporate them in a park plan created by a designer hired by the Kiwanis Foundation, he said.
That plan would be created in conjunction with representatives of the marina and the Parks and Recreation Department, Sigwart said.
“If the city thinks it might be a good idea, we could move ahead and start to raise money to create the park,” he said.
Funds to actually develop the park would likely be raised throughout the community, Sigwart said, not just through the club — just as occurred with Possibility Playground.
“It would have to be a larger community effort, but it would be one spurred by the Kiwanis Club,” he said.
He suggested the city and Kiwanis Club jointly hire an appraiser to determine the value of the city-owned property.
“I don’t think anybody has any idea now what it’s worth,” he said, adding the appraisal could be used to determine how much a developer should pay for the land and what its value as a park could be.
Creating a park on the land could make the private property across Washington Street more valuable for development while retaining public lakefront land, Sigwart said.
“I like the idea of the retail element being north of Washington Street,” he said. “You could even go three or four stories there and I don’t think anyone would be offended.”
And while city officials are looking at the possibility of creating a destination attraction on the city-owned land, Sigwart said downtown Port will have a destination next year that can serve as a bridge between downtown and the lakefront — the Port Exploreum museum being developed by the Historical Society.
“I think that’s going to be the destination everyone is looking for,” Sigwart said.
Sigwart said that there are plenty of opportunities for the club and the city to walk away from the Kiwanis Park proposal if it isn’t feasible.
If there isn’t enough interest or ideas generated at the Jan. 22 meeting, “Kiwanis could walk away,” he said.
“If the concept plan catches on, great. If it doesn’t, you walk away.”
But, he said, it’s something that ought to be considered.