Beautifying the dock in the bay: Town seeks to make dock an attraction

The town’s dock in St. Albans Bay. (Michael Frett, MESSENGER STAFF)

ST. ALBANS TOWN – The Town of St. Albans will be applying for grant funds to beautify its bay dock, a roughly 80-year-old structure that, due to noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the town is no longer allowed to operate as a dock.

The grant was brought to the selectboard during their last meeting by selectperson Jessica Frost, whose attendance at an AARP conference now qualified the town for a possible place making grant from AARP.

The grant, according to Frost, could help support beautifying the St. Albans Bay dock as a recreation attraction rather than an unusable dock.

“It was about creating places in your community that the public want to be in and revitalizing areas that don’t get as much attention as they used to,” Frost said. “I thought it’d tie in nicely with [Director of Public Works] Alan [Mashtare]’s dock project this summer.”

The dock project in question was described by Mashtare as a simple beautification project to clean up the somewhat disheveled dock by leveling its uneven asphalt surface, painting a path down its middle and adding planters and benches along the way.

“I just think cleaning the dock up a little bit and beautifying it is just one more way to bring more people down to the bay,” Mashtare told the selectboard.

As it stands, the dock is currently noncompliant with ADA, meaning the town isn’t allowed to rent out slips or operate the dock for boat traffic beyond emergency service craft, like the St. Albans Town Fire Department’s rescue boat.

The dock has also deteriorated somewhat since the Bay Park’s mid-1900s heyday, with decades of bay-side weather damaging the structure and cracking the asphalt on top of the dock. The town’s conducted patching work on it in the past, though town officials have admitted in previous selectboard meetings that it only amounted to “Band Aids” rather than actual fixes.

A previous study conducted by the town identified formally restoring the dock as a project costing somewhere between $900,000 to more than $2 million depending on whether the town opted to elevate the dock.

At the time, the selectboard balked at the possible expense, with members arguing they had other large infrastructure projects – such as moving the town garage and either renovating or moving the town hall – that they needed to prioritize.

In the meantime, the St. Albans Bay Marina had opened almost next door to the St. Albans Bay dock, offering 150 slips for area boaters that could likely absorb traffic denied at the dock.

The opening of the marina has also led the town to expect more recreational traffic in the area, one of the reasons Mashtare cited in favor of beautifying the dock for other kinds of recreation.

Mashtare had originally mulled the beautification project over with the town’s parks commission, a group that also includes selectboard chair Brendan Deso and is chaired by selectperson Frost. Mashtare’s also previously discussed these plans briefly with the selectboard in the past.

When discussing the project and possible grant funding for it, the selectboard appeared positive and approved having Frost apply for the grant via consensus.

“I think it’s a great idea,” vice chair Bruce Cheeseman said. “I look at that, and it’s basically deteriorating… It’s such a nice pier to enjoy.”

Stay informed. Subscribe to the Messenger.