Port panel says structure would divide park walkway from water without blocking view, but not everyone agrees
Instead of a railing, a 24-inch-high concrete curb should be installed along the promenade on the north side of Port Washington’s Coal Dock Park, members of the Coal Dock Committee agreed last week.
Members said the curb would serve the same purpose as a railing by preventing people from tumbling over the edge into the lake below, but it would be less costly and less obtrusive when people look out over the water, Chairman Rob Vanden Noven, the city’s public works director, said.
The curb, which is expected to be 12 to 18 inches wide, would be placed about six inches from the edge of the promenade, Vanden Noven said.
It would be designed to match the crane rail bench, which has an etched pattern to it, he added.
But the recommendation, which will be considered by the Common Council next month, isn’t being embraced by everyone.
“I can just see a guy backing up to take a picture of his family sitting on the crane rail, stumbling over the curb and down he goes (into the lake),” said retired engineer John Sigwart. “What would prevent people from sitting on it, sitting right on the edge? What would prevent fishermen from fishing there?”
It would be far too easy for these people to lean over and fall into the water, Sigwart said, noting that there is not enough space between the curb and the edge to stop them.
“I think the committee is well meaning, but sometimes when you compromise it just doesn’t work,” he said. “By building an attractive nuisance, I’m afraid you’ve made an unsafe area hazardous.”
The promenade was built without a railing to offer maximum flexibility when large ships dock there, but it was also constructed especially wide — 18-1/2 feet — to ensure people could enjoy the walkway and lake but stay away from the edge.
But when the park opened last year, the lack of a railing became a notable omission for some people, including members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board.
They recommended that the city install a railing, saying it is an essential safety measure that needs to be in place to prevent visitors, especially young children, from falling into the west slip, where the currents make the water dangerous.
But the estimated $200,000 cost of the railing, the fact it could cause issues for large ships docking in the west slip and concerns that it would obstruct the views of people sitting on the crane rail bench gave some people pause.
The curb is a compromise measure that committee members believe would address the potential problems, Vanden Noven said.
Committee members believe the curb would be adequate to prevent wagons and strollers from rolling off the promenade and into the west slip, he said.
The curb would also serve to alert people who aren’t paying attention to where they are walking that they are near the edge of the promenade, he said.
The cost of a curb is estimated at between $50,000 and $100,000, Vanden Noven said. The city expects it will have about $50,000 left in the park budget when the last construction bills are paid, he said.
He is talking to Department of Natural Resources officials to see if the city’s existing stewardship grant for the park can be amended to provide additional funds for the curb, Vanden Noven said.
If that doesn’t happen, the committee agreed that the city should apply for another stewardship grant to pay for the curb, he said.
That would likely delay construction of a curb until later in the summer, Vanden Noven said. Applications for the grant are due May 1, and communities typically learn whether they receive the funding by July 1.