Police boathouse to dock in Ft. Maitland Park

After months of debate, the Maitland City Council decided the city's police boathouse will be built on the pier of Ft. Maitland Park.

After months of debate, the Maitland City Council decided the city's police boathouse will be built on the pier of Ft. Maitland Park.

Sarah Wilson

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Plans for Maitland’s first and only police boathouse were cleared to set sail last week, after the City Council unanimously approved docking it on the Ft. Maitland Park pier.

The boathouse, to be paid for by the city’s Capital Improvement Plans (CIP) and police forfeiture funds from last year, went through two proposed – and publicly contested – locations before the city settled on a compromised plan presented by Maitland Public Works Director Rick Lemke on Nov. 12. This was despite the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board voting 4 to 1 on Oct. 3 to not place the boathouse in the park.

“It seems like we may have reached a solution that would not certainly satisfy everyone, but be a compromised solution,” Lemke said.

The new plan, approved unanimously by Council and by the Lakes Advisory Board, attaches the police boathouse to the existing and soon-to-be-renovated southern pier at Ft. Maitland Park. Initial plans had the boathouse constructed on the shore of the park, causing concern from paddle boarders and park-goers over its obstruction. This new plan, Lemke said, has the pier moving 4 feet north, slightly reducing the size of the boat ramp and providing additional beach access. The boathouse will attach to the pier, with a dock extending an additional 15 feet out into the water for additional public docking access.

“We realized we could connect it to that pier and in doing so would not impact the shoreline,” Lemke said.

Residents of The Moorings on Lake Maitland applauded the new plans, having vehemently opposed an alternative plan to place the boathouse on public land at the end of Live Oak Boulevard, claiming it would block their views and hurt property values.

“I didn’t think there was going to be a solution to this problem, but I think you’ve come up with one. … I think it’s a win-win,” Councilwoman Bev Reponen said.

Julie Roach, who offers daily paddleboard and yoga classes at the park, found out about the Council’s decision after the meeting. Said she wasn’t so sure this was a win for her and other park-goers.

“This is a beautiful park. … it’s sad that this is something that’s going to be in the way of the very small, little (lake) view that we have,” Roach said.

Jody Lazar, chairperson for the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, offered a similar sentiment, saying the primary purpose of Ft. Maitland is to serve as a park, not a boat dock, and that it is her job on the Parks Board to protect that purpose.

“You’re really inhibiting the view, and what that park could be. … We weren’t sure the need was necessary to spoil the land right there on our beach,” Lazar said. The need she refers to is for the police to have permanent and immediate access to the lake by boat in cases of emergency situations on the water.

To soften the idea of obstructing a portion of the park’s shoreline, Councilwoman Linda Frosch proposed taking the area previously considered for the boathouse at Live Oak and making it a public access area for viewing the lake and allowing non-motorized watercraft, such as Roach’s paddleboards, to enter Lake Maitland.

And to address the concerns over the boathouse being an eyesore for park-goers, Councilman Ivan Valdes suggested allowing the Parks Board to be able to plan how the boathouse will be painted, whether it be with a mural or less conspicuous color choice than stark white.

“Maybe you guys can design what it looks like so it isn’t a big white building that people stare at,” Valdes said.

While those ideas weren’t cemented, the boathouse’s new home on the Ft. Maitland pier was. Construction is now pending following a meeting between the city and the developer, Wise Marine Construction.

The project is slated to cost $110,058, up from a budget estimate of $91,168 in February. In the new plans, $63,483 in funding will come from the city’s Stormwater and Lakes Management Division’s CIP budget from 2012, with the remaining $46,575 coming from the police department’s forfeiture funds to cover construction of the boathouse and the relocation and replacement of the southern pier.