Organizers of effort to repair lakefront structure encouraged by public response at informational session
Organizers of a “save the Port Washington lighthouse and breakwater” campaign said they were pleased with the turnout at their initial meeting on Saturday.
More than 30 people gathered at NewPort Shores restaurant for the session, which was billed as an informational meeting and an opportunity to rally people around the cause.
“I was really impressed by the people who were there and encouraged by their input,” said James Meyer, one of the event organizers. “We thought, ‘Let’s get the ball rolling in every direction we can,’ and that’s what we did.
“I think people want to get involved. This is a no-brainer. When I got home, I started getting calls and messages from people outside the area asking what’s happening. People are already asking when is the next meeting.”
Meyer, along with Sandi Van Sistine of Green Bay and Mary Jo Joyce of West Bend, created the Great Lakes Safe Harbor Preservation Foundation and are applying for non-profit status for the organization, with the aim of raising money and promoting efforts to repair the deteriorating breakwater.
Joyce, who is president of the organization, told those gathered that although the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the breakwater, has known for at least the last decade that the structure is in poor condition, it has done nothing to fix the problem.
“The only way to get the attention of the federal government is to organize and raise money,” she said, noting significant portions of the breakwater have failed. “Nothing will happen unless we kick and scream.”
Ald. Bill Driscoll said the city welcomes the group’s efforts.
“The city can’t do this on its own. This group can’t do this on its own,” he said. “We need a multi-pronged approach. They can’t ignore the people.
“We are not only behind this group, this group is absolutely necessary.”
Meyer, vice president of the group, said that many of those attending Saturday’s meeting have become volunteers, offering ideas on how to move forward.
“I was really impressed with some of the one-on-one comments and suggestions,” he said.
The group is planning a follow-up meeting in late February, he said.
Organizers plan to meet with officials from We Energies on Feb. 4 to enlist their help in the campaign, Meyer said, and will talk to businesses in the city in the coming weeks.
A silent auction for photos of the breakwater and lighthouse held in conjunction with Saturday’s meeting raised $800, Meyer said.