Dock Suggested for Wilmer Park

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The approximate area of Wilmer Park where a proposed dock would be located — photo by Peter Heck

What happens when the marina is finished? A possible answer came from Peter Rice, who brought a proposal to install a dock at the edge of Wilmer Park to the Oct. 1 meeting of the Chestertown Council.

Rice said he got the idea while walking his dog in the park, and seeing the progress in refurbishing the marina. He described Chestertown as “an iconic coastal town,” where public access to the water is an important amenity for residents and visitors. As town property, Wilmer Park should be a key access point for waterfront views, “something similar to what’s at the foot of High Street.” However, Rice said, the current condition of the bulkhead on the Chester River side of the park limits its use. He cited the frequent inundation of the bank by high tides or heavy rainfall, and the deterioration of the bank just shoreward of the bulkhead, limiting how close someone can get to the water.

In response, Rice presented two plans for a riverside dock – one starting on the bank then extending out several feet over the water, the other just covering the bank but not extending out over the water. For either plan, an additional pier extending straight out into the river could allow sightseeing and fishing in deeper water. (See diagram below.) The version extending over the water would increase the acreage of the park and could double as a stage for concerts and other events in the park. The version sited only on the bank would be less expensive to install and would not require permits to build a structure into the water, though it would require relocating the current path and waterside benches.

Rice said he favored the idea of a fishing pier partly because it makes him nervous to see people fishing from the Chester River bridge, where they are only a few feet from the traffic lanes. “But all in all, I think it’s a beautiful town, and people like to be by the water. And it’s a good place to go and have your lunch or read a book.”

Councilman Marty Stetson asked Rice what he expected the cost of such a structure to be, and how it might be funded.

Peter Rice

Rice said, “I haven’t gotten that far,” but he thought it would be possible to get donations by an appeal on the Chestertown Life Facebook page, where he said he had gotten a good response where he floated the idea of a dock.

Stetson said public works projects tend to be very expensive. He said the town has typically depended on state and federal grants to do such projects. He said he did not want the taxpayers to have to pay for such a project. “It’s a very nice thing, it would be wonderful to have, but we have to pay for it.”

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the project would probably be eligible for grant funds, with matching funds raised from donations. He said Mayor Chris Cerino had made a similar proposal some time ago. He noted that the area by the park needs to be dredged again; it was last done in 1984. He said the dock would cover subsidence that is occurring by the water’s edge and make it more pleasant to approach the river.

Councilman David Foster asked if Rice envisioned kayak and canoe launching from the pier. Rice said he had only thought of it for walking and fishing, but that it would probably be easy to add a floating dock for kayak and canoe users.

Rice’s drawing of a proposed dock for Wilmer Park – The curved gray area represents the current walking path along the Chester in Wilmer Park.

Cerino said there is a kayak launch in front of the Hynson Pavilion, close to the area where the dock would go. He said the idea of a dock in the park was raised by the Waterfront Task Force several years ago. At present, the refurbishing of the town marina is “an albatross,” taking up most of the town’s energy and grant funding, Cerino said. But the riverside dock would cover the subsidence area and address a safety issue. He estimated that it could be built for $10,000 to $15,000, especially if the land-side version of the project is adopted. “It would be the cost of lumber, and maybe even the town crew could build it out,” he said.

Cerino added, “I think neighbors would be interested in this,” because residents of the area near the park are concerned with noise and loitering issues. “But I think this would be awesome,” he said. He said it would be a logical next step after the marina is finished. He also noted that he’s taken kids there to fish, and even without the pool, they caught “pretty big” catfish off the end of the park.

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper said that its presence along the river bank might make the project eligible for a grant from the John Smith Historic Trail.

Ingersoll praised Rice’s diagram of the proposed dock, calling it “a great model for is to use in a grant application.” 

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Letters to Editor

  1. What on Earth is the purpose of the covered Pavilion on the right rear of the park? The existing bench seating doesn’t seem to serve a purpose for any gathering that I could invision. The bench seating doesn’t face anything in particular. Such a beautiful spot should be renovated and enhanced. Also the low spots at the water’s edge should be back filled or have a boardwalk built over it. Lets enhance the natural beauty we have along the river. It would be nice to have a few of those benches in the shade of a tree. I won’t volunteer my thoughts on the new statues in the front of the park..

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