Consulting the park oracle

When we grow up, we want to be a consultant.

We’re not quite sure what career track to follow to reach that mysterious position – a modicum of knowledge in a given field and acceptable writing skills sometimes looks to be enough – but you can’t beat the money.

As reported Saturday, the public works department and city harbormaster are soliciting community input through a survey on the future of Waterfront Park (http://cobi.wawebsites.com). That follows council approval last week of a $10,000 contract (possibly reaching $21,000) with an area architectural firm to update the park’s master plan – penned at cost by that same firm in 1997, but little read and collecting dust since that time.

The notion of paying good money to update an unfulfilled plan barely seven years old rankles some; public works officials counter that to secure state funding for a new park restroom and shower facility, a formal master plan is an integral part of the process. Since the current plan was adopted, there has

been some disagreement over where the restroom should go;

someone has to decide, so back comes the consultant.

Let us say from the outset that a new loo is a necessity; the present Honey Buckets are never going to win hearts or minds, and only grudging bottoms. Beyond that, Waterfront Park is a generally fine community resource, so we encourage readers to take the survey. But we also hope the 1997 study will be posted on the city website, so people can read it and see what other issues they might be considering.

What did that document say? General concepts included better connections to downtown; placement of kiddies’ play equipment away from the street; a new picnic shelter in the lower lawn, and some more benches and tables; terraced seating for those watching concerts on the stage; better handicap accessibility; and selective removal of trees and shrubs, so you can actually see the water without tramping down to the boat ramp.

Arguably, park uses have changed a bit in recent years, with an increase in non-motorized boat traffic. But how much can you really re-imagine Waterfront Park without angering one constituency or another? Some have called for expanded moorage for those sailing in from points elsewhere, making Eagle Harbor more of a weekend destination and adding shekels to the tills of merchants. As for this page, we would love to see construction of an overwater pier with a nice viewing platform at the end. Think Point White, or the excellent public pier in Port Townsend. (Don’t say the current dock fills that role;

barely wide enough for one person to walk abreast and with no rails to lean on, it’s no gathering place. And when pleasure boaters are tied up, you always feel like you’re walking past someone’s bedroom window.)

A better question still might be what will actually come of a new, improved Waterfront Park master plan. The city doesn’t appear to have funds for significant improvements; indeed, as argued by the folks at public works, even the new restroom probably hinges on the generosity of those doling out grants. But we hope this time that islanders will get a little more for their money. We’d hate to think that seven or eight years from now, having done nothing to implement the plan, the city will be hiring the same consultant to rewrite it yet again.

So read the current Waterfront Park study if you can find it, and download the survey. Take your lunch over to the park and think about what you might like to see there.

And parents, when you’re pushing your kids on the swingset, smile – maybe someday they’ll grow up to be consultants.

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