Letter to the Editor: Working towards a practical Harbormaster’s facility

Oct 5, 2020

To the Marion Selectmen, Mr. Isaac Perry, Harbormaster, and the Marion Marine Resources Committee

Here are some ideas regarding the proposal for a new Harbormaster’s building at Island Wharf. 

Let’s start with the basic requirements in a building to house the waterfront needs of the Harbormaster and his assistants. We assume they need to be available and ready to handle water emergencies, as well as manage the town wharf as various boats tie up and depart. They also need to manage sewage pump outs from holding tanks. They need effective communications equipment. They need lockers for all weather gear. Most paperwork and record keeping should be done at the Town House where there is secretarial help and office equipment. Off-season storage of boats and other heavy equipment could be at an upland town site safely away from the water.  

The second major requirement is for public restrooms. No need to elaborate.

The building shown in the presentation at the Sept. 29 Selectmen’s meeting is hugely oversized and far more grand than Marion needs, wants or can afford. There are many evident problems. The ramps and decks themselves take up 2800 square feet. The view of the harbor from Front Street and Island Wharf Park would be blocked by the dimensions of the proposed building and decks. There is plenty of existing space at ground level for visitors to stroll and admire the view. The whole nearby area with the wharf, the little beach and grassy park is a nice place to visit. Our Harbormaster headquarters does not need to be a tourist attraction or an educational facility! There are plenty of accessible town spaces already available.

 Let’s consider the possibilities:

  1. Is it impossible to repair and update the present facility? A major benefit would be keeping the restrooms at ground level. New water-saving plumbing fixtures could be installed and the rooms painted. The upstairs office space could be remodeled to suit the officers and perhaps a balcony could be built so they have a better view of the harbor to keep an eye out for trouble. 
  2. We could have a mobile facility fitted out to serve our needs, with the restrooms at one end and the offices at the other. A major advantage is the structure could be moved to higher ground when hurricanes or other storm surges threaten the area. It could be designed to look attractive as well as being functional! 
  3. An innovative suggestion is to design a practical structure on a sturdy platform that could be raised up above a hurricane water surge. This could be done electrically or use a minimum size generator during a power outage. Surely Marion has people who can work out a practical design. 

In conclusion: We can appreciate the effort by the Harbormaster to put a design on the table. Now let’s work towards a more practical solution.

Elizabeth H. Brainard