After several public meetings and community votes, a team of designers presented a nearly complete Waterfront Master Plan Wednesday for the space between Wrangell’s City Dock and the Marine Service Center.
Landscape architect Chris Mertl said after presenting three different designs Monday, community members thought the plans were too expensive.
“So we took the ‘best of’ from the three and distilled it into a single preferred master plan that’s broken into smaller phases. That becomes much more cost-effective and actually provides economic opportunities and helps improve the quality of life in Wrangell,” Mertl said.
The total construction cost for the draft plan is estimated at $14.5 million, but it’s broken down into four phases that would each cost between $2 million and $3 million.
The goal of the first phase is to provide an immediate economic opportunity by expanding the Marine Service Center. Extending the fill in front of the Nolan Center would make space for 25 boats to be stored, thereby freeing up some work space in the existing boat yard.
The second phase adds an elevated boardwalk, or Heritage Walk. It starts at City Dock, wraps around the outside of the barge area, and joins with the sidewalk along the waterfront near City Hall. This phase would also include stairs going down to a natural beach area in front of town.
The focus of the third phase is adding a pier in front of the Nolan Center. The pier would include a “net shed” to be used for mending nets, community events and weddings. The pier itself could be used for fishing and short-term vessel moorage.
Nolan Center Director Terri Henson said she likes the plan.
“I think it’s a good compromise with what we need for our boat haul-out area and the industry there,” Henson said. “And I think it retains some of the Nolan Center needs, also, with retaining some of the green space, and then creating a focal point out front that’s attractive to people coming into the community. So I think it’ll work.”
Henson said she thinks the pier is a great idea. But she also wants to protect the green space around the Nolan Center.
“It’s for the people; it’s for everyone. It’s not just for industry. It has to be something that makes us feel good about living here,” Henson said.
The fourth phase depends on the barge companies eventually moving out of the downtown waterfront. The barge area would be replaced with a park, a parking lot and small buildings for the visitor industry.
The draft plan does not use all the space that Wrangell has fill permits for.
Mertl said that is because it would cost too much to fill more of the waterfront.
“The area that we did fill, or that we’re proposing to fill, will get 25 boats into it and is a good return in terms of the money for that construction,” Mertl said. “And by leaving some of the permits still open, we could take some of that area and perhaps apply it to another location within Wrangell and the community that’s going to be cost effective.”
The waterfront planning process started with two public meetings in January, and continued with two meetings this week. The design team will put finishing touches on the plan and present it to the community and the Borough Assembly in six to eight weeks.