The Green Lake Common Council voted 3-1 Tuesday to approve a donation of a pier extension on Deacon Mills Wharf, pending approval of a legal written agreement.
A 60-foot by 5-foot pier extension would be constructed by Outdoor Impact at no cost to the city and would be used to allow the Escapade yacht to dock downtown for boat tours. Additionally, Outdoor Impact would gift the new dock to the city and lease it yearly.
Outdoor Impact owner Wes Stibb and Pierless Boat Rentals Owner Thom Lemmenes have partnered to host summer lake tours of Green Lake aboard the Escapade yacht.
Stibb explained that Green Lake had not budgeted to financially contribute to the project and doing so would extend the timeline for construction.
“If we do it this way, there’s less politics involved and it moves a little bit faster,” he said, noting the intention is to make the addition look “just like the other docks.”
Lemmenes said the west side of the dock will be reserved for the Escapade, while the east side would be for public boat docking.
During the discussion, Green Lake Police Chief Jason Reysen did not see any issues enforcing the reservation for the Escapade as long as there was a clear marker for boaters identifying that the west side is not for public docking.
“If you just put fencing and put a couple gates, where you’re going to have loading and unloading, it’ll end up being fine,” he said.
Stibb and Lemmenes have gotten preliminary permission from the DNR and will be submitting a formal application this week.
Additionally, Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Meier was supportive of the project, which she described as a potential economic benefit to the city.
She estimated the Escapade would bring about 500 guests into Green Lake each week, who would spend between $71 for day trippers and about $150 for overnight visitors.
Meier calculated the economic benefit to the city for allowing the Escapade to dock downtown for the 17-week tourism season to be approximately $900,000.
“The chamber is behind this, we’re willing to help market it,” she said. “I think it’s a great year to kick this off and get it moving.”
Likewise, Stibb said the reason he wants to utilize Deacon Mills Wharf is to benefit the larger Green Lake community.
“We can work out of the boathouse, but the only problem is that I wanted something for the community,” he said. “Working out of the boathouse doesn’t help the community because people are going to come to the marina, they’re going to buy food and drinks from me, which is great for me, but it doesn’t help with the rest of the community.”
Ald. Jim Jahnke, who cast the lone “no” vote, raised concerns about congested parking downtown because of the increased traffic by Deacon Mills.
“That landing would be off limits to regular boaters, because they would not have places to park their cars down there,” he said.
However, Reysen said the addition wouldn’t impact downtown parking as there are eight parking stalls at Deacon Mills Wharf that allow for vehicle and trailer parking, which are already in-use most of the weekend anyway.
Mayor Ray Radis described the Escapade tours’ impact on parking as being similar to Concerts in the Park.
“It’s not going to be any different,” he said. “They’re going to park all over the place and just walk into town. We want people walking past our stores.”
The Common Council’s approval paves the way for Stibb and Lemmenes to begin moving forward with their plans for the Escapade.
“Since I heard about this idea, from the very beginning, I thought it was excellent,” Ald. Chris Foos said to Lemmenes and Stibb. “I’m really excited for you guys; I wish you the best and thank you for including the city on this project.”
IN OTHER NEWS
In other news from the special Common Council meeting:
- The Common Council voted 3-1 to move the Committee of the Whole meetings from the first Monday of each month to the second Monday of the month. The Committee of the Whole meetings will proceed the Common Council meetings. Jahnke cast the lone “no” vote.
- During the organizational meeting that came before the special Common Council meeting, Ald. Chris Foos was unanimously elected to the position of council president. Ald. Liane Walsh, who was absent Tuesday, was the previous council president. Foos was nominated by Ald. Jon McConnell.
- The Common Council also unanimously approved a service agreement with MSA Professional Services for the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program, which will aid the Illinois Avenue reconstruction project.
- In addition, the Common Council approved the replacement of the City Hall boiler and upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.