Residents concerned about deterioration of lakefront structure will hold first meeting Jan. 25
The deteriorating condition of the Port Washington breakwater has alarmed not only city officials but residents and former residents alike.
Concern for the crumbling landmark has prompted the formation of a friends group that will hold its organizational meeting at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at NewPort Shores restaurant.
“We’re reaching out to people, letting them know what’s happening with the breakwater and that we’re serious about what we’re doing,” said James Meyer, one of the group’s organizers.
“We want people to know there are a dozen or so ways, big and small, they can do something to help. Everyone should have the chance.”
Meyer said the citizen group will take a multi-pronged approach as it works to help the city obtain federal funding to fix the breakwater, which is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“We all kept hearing the same thing, that the Army Corps isn’t going to do anything,” he said.
By helping to raise funds and bring pressure to bear, the group can have an impact and help the city in its quest, he said.
The breakwater serves several purposes, all of them essential to the city.
It protects the shoreline, marina and downtown from the lake’s sometimes furious wave action. City officials have estimated that if the breakwater fails, it could put $70 million in property and infrastructure at risk.
The breakwater is also a tourist attraction, drawing people out onto the water to enjoy breathtaking views of the city and prime fishing opportunities.
The Army Corps of Engineers conducted an analysis of the breakwater last summer and concluded that it is in poor condition, with parts of the structure already failing.
But federal funds to repair it haven’t been forthcoming, and officials were told last year that some local funding will be needed.
“This is one of those no-brainer causes,” Meyer said. “The lighthouse and the breakwater — they are Port Washington. They’re the symbols we all identify with.
“I’ve talked with a bunch of people, and when I ask if I can count on their support, everybody has said yes without thinking about it.”
Meyer said a Facebook page devoted to the citizens’ group has more than 500 members — residents and former residents alike — and organizers are hoping to leverage that into support for the project.
“We need to raise awareness and raise a few dollars, too,” he said. “If we can show we’re the little David, they (the Army Corps) may feel compelled to help us.”
Saturday’s meeting will include a silent auction of photos of the lighthouse that’s intended to raise seed money for the group. The photo that goes for the most money will likely be used in the group’s logo, Meyer added.
Image Information: AN ALMOST ARTISTIC coating of ice obliterates the warning on a sign atop the Port Washington breakwater, where only a few brave souls navigate the walkway on their way to the lighthouse during winter. Photo by Sam Arendt