The vision of a boardwalk over a corner of Eagle Harbor had some City Councilmembers walking over water.
You could almost hear the Drifters singing, “The Boardwalk, we’ll be havin’ some fun.”
Oh, but the price. So often it comes down to the price.
Public Works director Chris Wierzbicki brought up the boardwalk idea as an option for a nonmotorized project that is in the 2024 capital improvement plan. Because of climate change and the threat of rising tides in the future, the idea was floated by the council, as an option to a previously approved option that could be encroached by higher waters.
“We heard from the community that it wants us to look at climate change and its effects,” acting city manager Ellen Schroer said.
Councilmember Leslie Schneider said, “I’m excited to see us thinking out of the box. I’m inspired by a shortcut at the head of the bay.”
Deputy Mayor Kirsten Hytopoulos called the portion across the water, “A lovely addition, innovative and exciting.”
She added it would encourage locals and tourists to walk and bike farther south than just downtown, and the route would keep them safe away from traffic.
Councilmember Christy Carr said while she likes the idea the added cost is a concern. “There are tradeoffs just like everything else.”
Mayor Rasham Nassar said she would like to see how the project fits into the entire Sustainable Transportation Plan before making a decision. She added that the information on rising sea levels was “stunning” and that it would make sense at some point to move that entire road inland.
Wierzbicki said getting the road out of the flood zone is something to consider, but even if the old road is abandoned the nonmotorized project is still a viable option because the impact of sea level rise would be more detrimental to a road.
“There are environmental challenges all around,” he said.
The boardwalk option would be high enough so kayaks could go under it. And it would be built so it could withstand anything at the 30-year flood mark.
Councilmember Joe Deets said it’s good the city is looking and flooding specifications in planning for the future. His concern was money.
All the options include a federal grant for $735,000 and fish culvert removal funds for $550,000. The city portion is the one that changes.
The options are:
1. Already approved and budgeted for $1.4 million, including $115,000 in city funds. It features 7-foot-wide paved shoulders on both sides of the road.
2. $2 million total, including $715,000 in city funds. It would separate 5-foot-wide paved bike traffic and 5-foot wide gravel paths for walkers on both sides of the road.
3. Same as Option 1, but instead of going so far north there is a boardwalk across the tideland. It would need $1.315 million in city funds.
4. Combines Options 2 and 3, at a cost of $1.515 million in city funds.
Wierzbicki said he has seen a lot more people wandering around in this area on bikes and foot, and they “look a little bit lost.” He said there’s not much space for them, and there’s a lot of traffic.
He recommended making a decision in the next few months and spending the money to solve a safety issue.
Carr said not only on this project but on others she is concerned that so much work has to be done by outside consultants rather than in-house. The “small, but not insignificant costs” add up.
“I wish we had the time and expertise for some of these projects,” Wierzbicki said, adding so often projects change.
That’s why on this one he wants to get an early start, and that everyone buys in to the final product.
Of getting outside professional help, he said, “I think it brings the community value.”