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RV Park Realignment Draws Community Comment

May 9, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Consultants unveiled a $10 million master plan for Salem, Mass., restoring the historic buildings, relocating the RV hookups and tents and building a wind turbine, the Salem Patch reported.

Amid pleas to keep Winter Island Park “quirky,” consultants to the City’s Planning and Community Development Department estimated Wednesday night that proposed improvements and restorations to the park and its deteriorating buildings would cost at least $10 million.

Steve Cecil, who heads the Cecil Group, presented a long-range master plan for improvements to the popular campground, beach and boat ramp that envisions renovations to the historic Coast Guard hangar and barracks, making improvements to Fort Pickering and building a small amphitheater.

Cecil, conceding that most of the improvements would not happen soon, warned that the city needs to take immediate action to “stabilize” the deteriorating hangar and barracks.

Calling Winter Island “a magical place,” Cecil said, “These buildings need advocacy. But they also need money.”

A next phase for the Cecil Group is to identify potential funding sources for Winter Island. The group’s preliminary list included federal, state and city funds, foundations and private donations.

It is not wise for the city to allow these buildings to continue deteriorating, Cecil said. The brick on the hangar is in danger of falling off and water is penetrating the old World War II era hanger for sea planes. And, with no roof, the barracks building is “deteriorating every day,” Cecil said.

Estimates were that it would take $1.5 million to restore the hangar and $2 million to stabilize and renovate the barracks building.

Roger Leger with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1524 pledged the support of Salem veterans’ organizations in raising funds and helping to restore the former Coast Guard buildings.

Mark George, a planning board member, proposed that the city give the island to the U.S. National Parks Service. “We can’t afford it,” he said.

He called Winter Island “the front door” to Salem from the sea, but said it would take the resources of the federal government to restore and maintain the island well. He said that the historic buildings are too deteriorated to save.

Dorothy Hayes disagreed, saying the historic buildings should be preserved.

The federal government donated Winter Island and its Coast Guard buildings to the city and can only take it back if the island is needed for homeland security, the consultants said.

Most of the 60-plus people who attended the third public hearing on the island’s future did not like the idea that Salem should give the park to the federal government. They also strongly opposed any privatization efforts on the island, including leasing the historic buildings for a restaurant or bed and breakfast hotel.

Jeffrey Folger, a frequent user of the park, expressed the views of many in the audience when he said, “I don’t want a fancy park. I like it the way it is.”

Another resident said he did not want a lot of “razzle dazzle” on Winter Island. “Just follow the three Bs – keep the beach clean, the barrels clean and the bathhouse clean. Then it will be perfect.”

Ed Moriarity, who lives on the island, said, “What is special about Winter Island is not what’s on the island, but it is the views.”

Helen Sides, another planning board member, applauded the plan, saying the consultants’ drawings made the park look more “polished” than what it would be when it is built out. “What I see is organization. That is what the place needs,” she said.

The biggest fight of the night was over protecting the area of the island allocated for recreational vehicles. Currently there about 22 RV hookups on the island. The Cecil Group proposed to reduce the number to 16 and build a visual barrier so other visitors would not have to see the RVs.

Most speakers said the RVs are a proven source of revenue for the town and should be left there.

Sides urged that the RVs be allowed to stay on the island, but be moved away from the harbor so as not to block any views of the water.

The audience was more supportive of the consultants’ plans to relocate and consolidate the tents for camping into one area on the northern edge of the park, surrounded by trees, but close to the beach.

Only one speaker objected to a proposed $2 million wind turbine that might be erected on the southern end of the island, although the windmill has drawn strong criticism in the past.

“A wind mill could destroy the whole purpose of the Island,” said Salem resident John Seger at an earlier hearing.

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