2011-05-12 / Front Page

Public opinion sought on Fort Getty’s future

By Tim Riel

On Thursday, May 19, islanders are invited to participate in a public workshop to discuss future uses of the Fort Getty Town Park.

The purpose of the interactive meeting — which will include a presentation from Landworks Collaborative, a consulting firm based in Worcester, Mass. — is to share ideas and hear feedback from Jamestown residents and landowners to determine appropriate ways to use the town park.

“It is a facilitated workshop,” Town Planner Lisa Bryer said, “for the primary purpose of coming up with the best future uses of Fort Getty.”

“The Town Council is going to have a tough decision to make about what to do with Fort Getty,” said Parks and Recreation Director Bill Piva, who is partnering with Bryer in organizing the workshop. “We are going to try and find out about what the community wants and how to move forward. [Fort Getty] is a critical town resource and amenity.”

According to Bryer, participants will break into groups at separate tables to discuss ways to use the park with five “use topics” in mind: water-based recreation, land-based recreation, culture and history, education, and passive use and open space.

“Each group will rotate until they have attended each ‘use topic’ table,” Bryer said.

The Jamestown Town Council came up with the plan to hold such a workshop late last year and a Request for Qualifications was completed in December 2010.

The request stated: “The current Town Council has expressed interest in undertaking some of the much needed improvements to the campground. The Fort Getty Master Plan Committee, prior to being disbanded, was interested in gathering additional public input on issues related to future use of the park through a public opinion survey.”

The Fort Getty Master Plan Committee was established in 2004 by the Town Council at the urging of former Town Administrator Maryanne Crawford. It was comprised of Chairwoman Mary Meagher and Bryer, along with members from the town’s Conservation Commission, Parks and Recreation Department, Harbor Management Commission, the Planning Commission and the Buildings and Facilities Committee. It was discharged on Jan. 19, 2010.

In the Fort Getty Master Plan, which was approved by the committee and then the Council in March 2005 and amended in April 2006 following the Fort Getty Land Use Plan, three goals were listed pertaining to the town park:

• Upgrade park facilities and amenities, which will enhance the appeal of the park for residents and other visitors.

• Develop additional waterdependent and water-enhanced active and passive recreational opportunities for residents.

• Maintain positive financial revenues from current and future uses at Fort Getty that will be available for park maintenance and improvements.

Bryer said that the master plan would most likely not be amended, but instead a separate report would be made following the workshop.

Funding for all the improvements that were outlined in the land use plan exceeded $1 million, according to the Request for Qualifications. Town funds — along with available grants — were limited to $50,000 per year in the five years since the plan was completed. Currently, there is $312,000 in the reserve for Fort Getty.

Bryer said at an earlier meeting of the Planning Commission on March 23 that the land use plan did not meet expectations of Jamestowners on how to use Fort Getty. Although the commission recommended a survey, Bryer said, “[The] Town Council was not interested in another survey” but instead preferred the facilitated workshop.

Although the big news over the winter regarding Fort Getty was the collapse of the John C. Rembijas Memorial Pavilion in February, Bryer said that discussion about a new pavilion on that spot will be a separate entity.

“The rebuilding of a pavilion will be a separate process,” she said. “Unless someone wants to discuss another pavilion elsewhere in the park.”

What can be expected at next week’s presentation is anyone’s guess, but the request did generalize what the town was looking for from a facilitator, which has since been awarded to Lankmarks.

“The intent of the public workshop is to develop a program (prioritized list) for the community’s use of the park. The facilitator’s role requires experience in land use planning so as to assist the public in recognizing the compatibility of different uses, their appropriateness for the site, their compliance with local, state and federal regulations, their development requirements and costs and lastly, their potential, if any, for revenue generation.”

It added, “A second phase of this effort is the preliminary organization of some of the recommended uses in a schematic plan or plans.”

The request also said, “All ideas shall be measured by their usefulness to residents, the ability to increase use of the park by residents, and the potential development/improvement costs to taxpayers and potential revenue generation. All feasible uses shall be ranked.”

Bryer said that the top three ideas will be pursued further.

Along with structural ideas for the park and thoughts on how to use it, Piva alerted to the controversy about visiting campers. “Do we want to eliminate campers from out of town, or reduce them, or keep it as is?” Piva asked.

Piva said that there are some residents of Jamestown who feel that once out-of-town campers arrive at Fort Getty for the season — which runs from May 19 to Oct. 3 this year — “some residents don’t feel welcome to just go for walks in the park. Then, when the campers leave, they believe the park is theirs again.”

On the other side of the spectrum, Piva said that visiting campers can be an important part of the town’s economy. “It makes money not just for the town, but for the businesses in town also. Having campers from out of town means they are visiting the restaurants and stores and the laundromat.”

The Town Council voted the $10,000 award to facilitate the workshop to Landworks during its meeting on March 7. Asked by a council member at the time of the vote if Landworks was capable of determining certain financial aspects of the park and how it could generate money for the town, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said, “Yes. In fact, they demonstrated the best understanding of economic analysis. The lowest bidder fell woefully short in their ability to do analytical work.”

The workshop will be held on Thursday, May 19, at 7 p.m. at Lawn Avenue School. For nonregistered voters, the town asks that they bring a proof of Jamestown residency to the meeting.

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