2008-05-15 / Editorial

Sail Jamestown!

A unique opportunity exists to create a public boating facility

Town officials report that the Dutch Island Boat Yard has been placed on the auction block. Bids for the three parcels of property that comprise the boating facility are due by June 4.

The properties are adjacent to town-owned waterfront land that for many years has been leased by the boat yard. The town-owned land extends westward from the foot of Narragansett Avenue and includes the pier where boats are usually stored during the winter. The boat yard has also leased from the town about 100 deep-water moorings in Dutch Harbor.

Town officials report there is much interest in the Dutch Harbor Boat Yard property, including possible development as condominiums.

The auction of the Dutch Island Boat Yard property presents the Town of Jamestown with a once-ina lifetime opportunity to create a community boating facility - a place that would provide everyone affordable access to the waterfront and to sailing. The town could purchase the Dutch Harbor properties and then evaluate how best to organize a community boating facility.

There are a couple of different ways to create a public boating facility if we utilize both the townowned land and boat yard property. We could establish a not-for-profit foundation, somewhat similar to the highly successful Sail Newport, which would manage the property and the boating programs.

For discussion purposes, let's call the local foundation "Sail Jamestown." The organization would offer the public access to boating through annual memberships. It would offer sailing lessons for kids and adults. It could manage the commercial moorings in Dutch Harbor for seasonal and transient boaters, providing an additional revenue stream for the foundation. The foundation could also provide storage and launching for privately-owned small keelboats. It might also manage a small fleet of sailboats that could be rented by members.

The second option would have the town operate a community boating facility through our Parks & Recreation Department. The rec department could manage the facility with public programs ranging from learn-to-sail to affordable access for bigger boats. Such programs work well elsewhere in New England. One only has to look towards Edgartown to see a mooring field that is managed by the municipal entity.

We are a community of boaters. However, affordable access to the water is becoming a scarce commodity in Jamestown. Getting out on the water is expensive. The Dutch Harbor Boat Yard auction offers an exciting opportunity to establish a public boating facility on one of the best harbors in the state. Affordable boating for families could become more than a dream.

We can save the farms. Now let's save the waterfront - for our own use!

- Jeff McDonough

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