NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo Park and Harbor Commission recommended that city officials take a serious look at erecting some sort of a barrier to foot traffic on the boulders lining the Galien River channel as it enters Lake Michigan during its April 1 regular meeting.
The safety hazard of people traversing the harbor breakwater rocks was discussed during the meeting. A sign recently installed by the Army Corps of Engineers warning of “Danger” when “Waves Flood Surface” and stating “Keep Off During Storms” was seen as falling short of solving the problem by commissioners.
Previous proposals to fence off the breakwater did not receive city approval, although Parks Director Kristen D’Amico said people have recently been climbing the light towers “and all kinds of crazy stuff out there.”
The Park and Harbor Commission unanimously passed a motion to support exploring the options of putting a fence up at the “jetty.”
In her monthly report to the Commission, D’Amico noted that spring clean-up has begun, the snow fence has come down at the beach and a dozer has bee rented to level out all the sand in preparation for the pedestrian boardwalk.
“The beach has already began seeing an increase in visitors, which is much earlier than in years past,” she reported.
D’Amico said she has spoken to Dustin Harvey and he will have Dan Lang running/managing the New Buffalo Beach Club concession at the public beach this summer.
She said Harvey is still involved, but “will not be down there every day all summer.”
“For the most part they’re going to have the same kind of food items. They’re not going going to be doing chair rentals or beach umbrellas and they’re not going to be utilizing any of the sand area behind the building like they were, they’re just going to use the deck.”
As for other vendors at the beach, D’Amico said she believes Kona Ice is going to return, while there may also be a hot dog stand depending on City Council action. Later in the meeting Brianna Perkins (during a public comment portion) said she is hoping to get a Lakeside Dogs hot dog cart approved for different locations in the city.
D’Amico said city officials are still waiting on the state to send the proper paperwork to get started on the Dune Walk restoration project.
She said they have decided that “no matter when we get the paperwork we’re going to go ahead and begin the project because the money’s allocated … It might not start now ’til July.”
There was discussion on looking into organizing a community garden at Oselka Park, and a motion to approach the City Council with the idea was approved.
In her report to the commission, D’Amico wrote: “Lifeguard hiring has gone well this season. We have 5 returning guards and 2 new additions to our staff. I would like to get 1 more full time and one part time guard as I am anticipating a very busy beach this summer.”
In regards to repairs at the Municipal Marina building which was damaged by a fire last summer, D’Amico said contractors have told her it is taking a while to get materials.
“So right now the plan is to be open when we’re supposed to be open … I don’t have any reservations until Memorial Day, and we’re just going to keep an eye on what’s coming in because if need be then I will get portable bath rooms and showers, but I don’t want to do that until I have to.”
D’Amico reported that the boat launch has gotten off to an amazing start to the season.
“We have been steadily busy every weekend and even a lot of weekdays. A new feature we are working on is making the kiosk available to boaters to pay the daily launch fees. We are hoping this will help with some of the congestion and it will also give me a better way to track activity down there,” she wrote.
Commissioners discussed the possibility of preparing for the need for dredging the harbor channel with lower water levels and sand coming in with storms, and it was suggested that soundings be taken to see where water levels the boating channel stand.
Chairman Don Stoneburner said the city has been trying to get payments owed to the dredging fund, adding that he would seek to have the city send out a second letter to those who are supposed to contribute.
Interim City Manager Rich Killips said he and new City Manager Darwin Watson could get a second letter sent out soon.
The option of a special assessment district if payments are not made was mentioned during the meeting.
D’Amico said the beach parking lot pay kiosks are up and running, adding that boat ramp fees also can be paid on the kiosk.
She said sealcoating at the boat ramp lot is expected to take place in mid April, a project which will include 10-foot parking spots for kayakers and no more “extra parking.”
Killips was thanked for his efforts as interim city manager while Watson (who started on April 1) was welcomed as the new city manager.