By Dave Schmanska
On May 14, 2018 residents of St. George will be asked to vote on a $2.64 million rehabilitation and development project at the former St. George Marine property at 10 Cold Storage Road, in Port Clyde. The first phase of the project was completed in 2015 when the town purchased the property which adjoins the existing town landing. The second phase has been to develop a construction plan to repair, improve and expand the property into a facility that has adequate infrastructure to adapt and support a wide range of future commercial and recreational activities. The final phase will begin the gradual development of a plan to use the new facility once the voters approve a construction plan.
The planning process has been led by the Harbor Committee chaired by Dan Morris of Port Clyde. “During the purchase process we heard loud and clear that residents wanted to maintain and enhance access to a working waterfront,” Morris says. “That message resonates with the Harbor Committee and is an important part of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. It was the key guiding principle to our work”.
The process, which took more than a year, was assisted by planning consultants from the Musson Group and engineers from GF Johnston and Associates. The essence of the plan is to create a single waterfront facility by connecting the existing town landing to the new property. This would be accomplished by filling in two areas with stone and would nearly double the usable wharf surface by adding 9,400 square feet. It would also increase dock frontage by over 150 feet. The plan has the potential for increased floats for docking, a second improved launch ramp, some additional parking and basic amenities such as shoreside benches and walkways.
“There are site considerations for certain”, explains Noel Musson of the Musson Group. “Our charge from the committee was to help develop a plan that wasn’t simply a fix, but rather a long-term repair and expansion of the property to create as much flexibility as possible for the town. We assessed the issues that led to the failed southwest corner, conducted studies of soil on the sea floor, and estimated depth to ledge in the area. Our engineers then developed an estimate of the construction cost.”
Morris adds, “This solution has a life-span of 75 years or more and it will allow the Town to have control of a waterfront access point at a time when access is shrinking locally and statewide. The Committee feels that this approach is a better value for the Town’s dollars versus a more costly option involving many cycles of continuous repair and improvement”.
The project has the support of the Harbor Committee, Select Board and Budget Committee. The proposed financing method is to obtain a 20-year bond. Any grant options that could offset cost in the future will be evaluated. The property tax impact to the average homeowner would be approximately $60 per year, or $1,200 over the twenty-year period. The vote by secret ballot will occur on May 14 at the Town Office. Concerns about traffic congestion, safety of users, and the final use plan for the facility were raised at recent public meetings. The Select Board has committed to continued work on these issues.
My feeling is that this project is about preservation of waterfront access, and the creation of potential options for the town and those who use the sea to earn a living. The face of the working waterfront has changed and will continue to change over time. We don’t know if the future will bring new types of aquaculture, additional harvesting of rock weed, a rebound in ground fishing or something we haven’t thought of yet. What we do know, is that as that face changes, this property will be designed to meet those needs.
In conjunction with the Select Board, The Harbor Committee will continue to work with The Musson Group and GF Johnston and Associates to refine the plan, explore grant opportunities, and address some of the concerns raised at the public meetings.
“For the first time a tractor trailer delivering to Town will be able to turn around in Port Clyde instead of backing down main street”, says Morris. “Improvements like this will not completely solve the midsummer congestion issue, but they will go a long way toward bettering it. The committee believes that this plan meets our goal of positioning the town to adapt to the future, and it takes advantage of a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity.”
Additional information about the project can be found on the Town’s website (www.stgeorgemaine.com) or by stopping at the Town Office.
(Schmanska is St. George’s Harbormaster.)