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Park may get makeover

Restrooms are among the needs at Winslow’s Waterfront Park.

In a wedge of time before she goes to work at the nearby pub, Carol Hough sits knitting a scarf at a picnic bench by the dock in Waterfront Park.

“I used to come here a lot as a kid,” Hough said. “It’s warm in the sun and I enjoy the stillness. It’s incredibly peaceful.

“The best thing about Bainbridge is these little cubbies.”

The city hopes to add to that charm, and the park’s usability, by updating a now six-year-old park master plan.

A study about to get under way will take into account changes in park uses, add new detail and look at issues raised by the recent downtown planning effort. It could also position the city for grant funding for park improvements, including new restrooms. The City Council Wednesday approved $10,000 for a consultant to update the plan.

The 1997 plan didn’t result in much action beyond the razing of the aging restrooms, and new pathway and dock lighting.

“I think (an updated plan) will get higher notice by people and the council because the restrooms are gone,” said Randy Witt, public works director. “But also because the park is at the point where it is starting to show wear and is getting a lot of use.”

In the summer, evening concerts still attract huge crowds.

Recent changes include use by the rowing club and a general increase in non-motorized boat traffic. The club stores its shells south of the tennis courts; Witt says rowers would like better protection for the boats, but the area they now use was designated in the 1997 plan as the site of a new restroom and shower facility.

It may seem a simple matter to just put new restrooms elsewhere. But Witt and harbormaster Tami Allen said designating a restroom site in a formal master plan could qualify the city for funds under state’s Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation.

Important to a successful grant application is presenting a plan that has gone through public process and has documented community support, she said.

“Boating grants are especially interested in funding bathroom and shower facilities,” Allen said.

Waterfront Park remains the general public’s gateway to and from the waters of Eagle Harbor, and is “used constantly,” Allen said.

Rowers are launching their shells at 4:30 a.m., while “transient boaters” visiting Eagle Harbor and liveaboards tie rowboats to the public dock to come into town to shop.

That has resulted in crowding at the dock. The 1997 plan called for more moorage, but did not detail how it should be accomplished.

Friday, about to push off from the public dock in a weathered rowboat with his dog, Alan Cangiamila said he wished the park would be left alone. Living on a boat in the harbor, he comes to the dock daily.

“It was a lot nicer before they tore down the restrooms and fireplace,” Cangiamila said. “(And) there used to be more underbrush. They keep cutting back the brush and replacing it with grass.”

The study will address landscaping and tree retention, and also the question of whether there is still need for two new play areas east of the tennis courts; the last plan was largely silent about the play area across from T&C’s parking lot.

Downtown property owners, meanwhile, have suggested that area as a site for underground parking, to be topped by relocated tennis courts. That proposal has already generated controversy.

Hough says that when she shops with her children, “the kids are bouncing off the walls at T&C, so it’s nice to burn off (their) energy at the playground.”

The park’s most pressing need remains restrooms, for which the city has committed about $5,000 for an interim solution. Witt said possibilities include setting up deluxe port-a-loos near Brien Drive, or paying staff overtime to keep the restrooms in the Commons open longer hours.

As to the study, to be performed by the authors of the 1997 plan under Linda Attaway Landscape Architect, the first stop will be a survey of park users. The survey will be mailed to island residents, and is available online at cobi.wawebsites.com.

“We encourage people to get on the horn and put in their two cents as soon as possible,” Allen said.

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