A sweeping harbor improvement plan is now in the works for Menemsha thanks to a hefty grant awarded to the town of Chilmark this spring from the Massachusetts Seaport Advisory Council.
Chilmark selectmen discussed the plan at their weekly meeting Tuesday night, which calls for building new concrete and wooden docks throughout the pier system in the historic fishing village.
The 230-foot transient dock at the far end of the harbor is slated to be replaced with a concrete dock, and there are also plans for a new wooden fuel dock, repairs to the charter docks, and a new 60-foot temporary tie-up dock. A new touch-and-go dock for small boats and kayaks is also under consideration. There are no drawings yet, but the plans have the backing of the town harbor advisory committee.
The $629,000 state grant was awarded to the town in April for repairs stemming from the July 2010 Menemsha boathouse fire.
A special town meeting will be called in early August for voters to approve the plans. The cost of the project is estimated at $647,370, but the selectmen said the budget would stay within the confines of the grant.
Harbor advisory committee chairman Andy Goldman said the group tried to weigh cost benefits against aesthetics.
“Aesthetically, everyone would rather see a fixed wooden dock, but when we took into consideration the cost and we saw our role as the harbor advisory committee to the selectmen as dealing with the ease of maintenance and operation rather than aesthetic to the town — nobody disagreed,” he said.
Menemsha Texaco owner Marshall Carroll had another view.
“Menemsha deserves more than concrete and steel,” he said. “Aesthetic is very important . . . we spent hours discussing what type of bush should be planted at Middle Line Road, and what the steeple should look like on the church, and Menemsha deserves that . . . before you go and change it and make it a cookie-cutter like everywhere else because it’s convenient.”
Selectman and committee member Warren Doty said he expected a debate about the issue on the town meeting floor, but recommended the selectmen stick with a single plan to present to voters.
“I think we could really have a debate [now] about whether it should be wooden or a [concrete] floating dock, and we will have that debate no matter how it’s presented,” Mr. Doty said.
If voters agree, construction will begin on the project in the fall.