After years of planning the project, a timeline has been set for construction on the coal dock, and a park is now slated to open to the public next summer.
The entire project entails work on two areas: the north coal dock and south coal dock. The latter, which is set to be completed and open Aug. 6, includes a bird sanctuary and walking trails accessible from South Beach.
The north coal dock area will be accessible by car from Wisconsin Street, by the Interurban Bike Trail or even by simply tying up your boat there. Here's a rundown of the park's proposed features:
- Expanded marina space;
- Fishing access;
- Harbor walk;
- Pedestrian bridge connecting the north and south coal docks;
- Wisconsin Street "gateway" to the park;
- and naturalization of Sauk Creek.
Earlier this year, city officials were more optimistic about starting construction on the project, as they had projected a May start date. Now, with engineering plans finalized, they are working with this tentative schedule that anticipates a June 2013 opening date.
The north coal dock, which constitutes the project's bulk, was delayed when funding fell through, but officials are now ready to set this portion in motion with grants from DNR Stewardship ($961,500) and Costal Management ($80,000). During a Coal Dock Committee meeting Tuesday morning, City Engineer Rob Vanden Noven said there will be enough funding to complete the project, given the city's engineering plans.
For city officials, this project ties into promoting Port's "walkability" as part of making the city a regional point of interest, and they said the park may be useful for Port's regular festivities. As a point of reference, Vanden Noven did some rough measurements to determine that the walk from Veteran's Memorial Park to the coal dock park is about the same distance from the Summerfest grounds' north gate to the main stage.
Mayor Tom Mlada stressed that the major work on the park should be mostly complete by the time it opens next year.
"The key seems ... as if we need to do everything we can now so that the initial experience in June is a favorable experience," Mlada said. "(We should) ensure that everything we're talking about here is top-notch come June."
Committee members on Tuesday also considered its options for naming the park. They seemed to agree on the viability of "Coal Dock Park," which they said would be a familiar name and tie a historical feeling into the park. That name, though, is certainly not final.
Here's the tentative schedule for the project:
- August 2012: soliciting bids for construction
- September 2012: bid awarded
- September 25, 2012: Coal Dock Committee meeting
- October 2, 2012: public information meeting
- October 2012 - June 2013: construction
- June 2013: park opening
— Local Editor Lyssa Beyer contributed to this report.