More than 100 citizens gathered on Wednesday evening for the second of three public meetings to discuss and help shape the future of Marina Beach Park, including the critical question of how and where to daylight Willow Creek.
Carrie Hite, Director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, welcomed the group. “While we are looking at an array of improvements to Marina Beach Park, our big goal is to daylight Willow Creek and make it salmon-friendly again,” she said. “People love Marina Beach as it is today, so we want to keep all that, but add even more. And the centerpiece will be a free-flowing creek that supports salmon.”
At the previous public meeting March 4, the consultants from Walker-Macy, responsible for the Marina Beach Master Plan, and Shannon&Wilson, in charge of the Willow Creek daylighting study, presented two options, one of which would have routed Willow Creek through the main park, the other through the off-leash dog park.
At that March 4 meeting, the consultants received considerable input including the need to maintain or expand parking, to upgrade the restroom facilities by replacing the porta-potties with brick-and-mortar restrooms, to provide more habitat and educational opportunities, and to maintain the present mix of beach views, picnic tables, seating, play structures and other recreational amenities. Interested citizen unable to attend were able to provide input to the consultants via an online town hall, which provided the opportunity to address the same issues. One issue that raised considerable concern and differences of opinion was the presence of the off-leash dog park, dog-human conflicts, and the impact of dogs on the environment.
On Wednesday night, the consultants came back with two modified alternatives embodying the input received at the last meeting and from the online town hall. Supporters of the dog park broke out in spontaneous applause upon learning that based on a combination of citizen input, hydrologic issues and environmental concerns, neither of the current options calls for routing the creek through the dog park.
With this issue off the table, the audience divided into seven breakout groups to examine the two options and provide input on which overall design best meets the needs of park users, which alignment of Willow Creek would best fit with the park and meet environmental concerns, and what additional amenities/changes they would like to see.
While both Options 1 and 2 would have Willow Creek flow through the main park and maintain the existing beach and driftwood areas, the placement of amenities including paved pathways, restrooms and play structures would vary, as would the alignment of the creek and the design of the parking area (both options provide equivalent numbers of parking stalls). Option 1 would include an automobile turn-around that would sacrifice some park space, while Option 2 would offer a longer creek, a larger streamside buffer area, and two lawn areas, one on either side of the creek.
At the close of the breakout session, the groups reported back with their findings and input. While there was no overwhelming preference for either option 1 or 2, there were differences of opinion on the automobile turnaround, restroom placement and other fine points of design, with one group requesting that the parking plan include spaces for motorcycles.
Once again, interested persons unable to attend last night’s open house have the opportunity to comment by logging in to the Marina Beach Master Plan Online Open House.
Next steps in the process include review by the Planning Board and City Council scheduled for May 13 and 19, respectively. The consultants will fold the results of these reviews in with the public comments received at the two open house meetings, and will submit a draft master plan in late June for Planning Board and Council consideration. This will be followed by a public comment period to include a third and final open house on July 8. Adoption of the final Master Plan is expected toward the end of this year.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel