Feature Article - March 2019
Find a printable version here

Water Wise

Waterfront Development Ideas for Your Community

By Joseph Bush

His suggestion to anyone undertaking such a project is to hold regular meetings.

"There was a lot of manipulating of everyone's schedules, and there were some tense moments because time is money and if you make me wait a week that costs me money, but somehow we got through it," said Snyder. "An important piece was we held monthly all-construction meetings. All general contractors together.

"Nobody likes (meetings), but they do help. Keep the communication open and be flexible. If our contractors weren't flexible, it was going to fail. I kept reminding them to focus on the vision: 'We have issues today, but look where we're headed with this thing, we're all going to look back and say 'Wow.'"

Indeed, Snyder said that residents were kept interested with regular updates by the city's TV station and local paper, but sightlines were limited by construction fencing. The grand opening was worth the trouble, he said.

"It was interesting back in September and October when we had some really nice warm evenings, and we lit the whole park and it was so new and everybody wanted to come and see it and experience it," he said. "I could hear people saying 'This is really cool.' Even the news people said, 'Wow, Vancouver, you did it right.'

"It felt surreal, like 'Is this Vancouver, Washington, and not some big resort community where you go on vacation and experience this sort of thing?' It was neat seeing people interact with it, taking pictures and nothing but positive comments about the project. Total success."

Smaller Projects

John Howlett is general manager of a Grand Island, N.Y. based company that installs 25 to 30 kayak launches per year, and can adapt them to the growing use of paddle boards.

If a client has a beach and wants off-shore structures to swim to, sit on, jump off, slide down or bounce on, his company uses dock and other waterfront products. If a client doesn't have a beach, there are products to help launch and anchor all types of craft. Waterparks and marinas and everything in between is what his company installs, and since the work is across Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, it includes lots of types of water and all four seasons. He's been in the business long enough to see trends.

"In the 13 years I've been doing it, I've seen a migration from pressure to build docks for power boats into pressure from the community and members of local governments to create an area on the water for people to gather at and be on the water but not necessarily using any kind of power equipment," said Howlett.

"The move has gone from power boats to paddle boards, kayaks, rowboats and water bikes. We're not building docks anymore for power boats, we're now building what we call 'waterfront solutions.' We're building docks to get people to the water to simply enjoy it and spend time."

Howlett said because climate is as much of a factor as budget when clients want waterfront development, his company does research, takes pictures, visits sites and has questionnaires.

"The No. 1 thing they need to do is they need to understand their purpose for being on the water," said Howlett. "What is it your people have told you they want to do? Are they kayakers, are they boaters, are they rowers, do they want us to just build a swim area?"

He said important questions include, "Do you fully understand the water that you have? Is your water, your waterfront, your access to it, appropriate for what you want to do? What is it you want to do and can we effectively do it where you are?"

Lakes and rivers, old quarries and more can be converted into water destinations with the addition of docks, as well as with inflatable elements that create a more active experience for visitors. Dry-side amenities will matter here, too, including shade and shelters, and maybe even a playground or splash park.

Mother Nature is one of the biggest factors to consider for four-season clients when they are mulling a waterfront project. She must be not be fooled with, Howlett said. He's done work in places in Pennsylvania where between the spring and summer the water falls 28 feet. Those conditions dictate whether anchoring systems are permanent or not, he said, which matters to planning and work time and budget.

"If you don't get what you build out of the water, the water from the mountains of West Virginia will rip anything that's there out of the water," he said. "We don't want to build something Mother Nature will tear down. We tell clients, 'As much as we'd like to build this for you, this won't work, here are some options.'"