An addition to Deacon Mills Wharf may be coming to Green Lake this summer, which would enable the Heidel House Escapade yacht to dock downtown for boat tours of Big Green Lake.
After the Green Lake Parks and Recreation Board learned about preliminary plans for the yacht last month, it received a proposal to expand upon the Deacon Mills Wharf Wednesday.
Outdoor Impact owner Wes Stibb recently purchased the Escapade and is partnering with Pierless Boat Rentals owner Thom Lemmenes to operate the boat.
The proposed expansion would include a 60-foot by 5-foot dock to the east of the boat launch that would extend from the wharf out into the lake.
Lemmenes explained that the estimated total cost of the extension is approximately $20,000 and would be “built to the same standards of the existing wharf," meaning it should “look just like the wharf.”
Stibb and Lemmenes are looking for some funding support from the city. Lemmenes told the Commonwealth it's currently unclear how much of the project cost the city would be asked to cover.
“We’re still looking into how we can structure this,” he said Friday. “I think we're bringing quite a bit of value to the city by bringing these people downtown.”
During the meeting, Lemmenes said the Escapade would dock on the west side of the extension, while the east side of the extension would be available for public boat docking “at all times.”
“We would be loading off the front, which is essentially right now the end of what is kind of a seawall between the boat launch and the wharf itself,” he said. “... We would have to put up some signs that are noticeable, but somewhat discreet; we'd probably have roping along the pylons on that side of the pier to let people see that this is not a convenient place to dock.”
Lemmenes says one of the hopes is that increased boat parking could help boost downtown business.
“A lot of people are hesitant to take the boats downtown because they don't know if there's going to be any parking spots,” he told the Commonwealth. “Anything we can do to bring in a few extra parking spots should help people be more free to come downtown and spend some money while they're there.”
While the Park and Rec Board gave preliminary approval for the project Wednesday, Mayor Ray Radis explained that the city would have to fund a portion of the project and the Common Council would have to give the final OK for the project.
During the meeting, it was unclear where the public funds would come from, but officials noted they could seek private donations as well.
If the addition gets built, Lemmenes said the hope is to launch the Escapade once a day from the extension to provide lake tours.
“We want to get these tours out and running, we want to bring people downtown,” he said. “We need to do that on a regular basis to make this boat pay for itself, essentially.”
In addition, he wants to bring people downtown to spend money at local businesses.
“The idea is to get more people downtown, to get them out, supporting local businesses,” Lemmenes said Friday.
Lemmenes anticipates the Escapade being docked “at least 15 minutes prior to departure” to give passengers time to get situated on the boat.
“We don't leave the boat sitting there that would affect the view from downtown and we don't want to do that,” he said.
Lemmenes and Stibb have received the “preliminary OK” from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), but still have to go through a formal application process.
Prior to going through the application process, Lemmenes and Stibb wanted preliminary approval from the city’s Park and Recreation Board to get an indication of support from the city.
Although committee members Kyle Wiggs and Stephen Siders were excited about additional public boat parking, Siders raised concerns about congested car parking downtown.
“I’m supportive of the idea but I think we need to resolve that issue,” Siders said.
The Park and Recreation Board unanimously voted to provide preliminary support for the project, but questions arose about how much public money would need to be spent to support the project and where it would come from.
“We support the addition of the pier with the need to verify the actual costs and consider appropriate means to fund its construction,” Siders said.