City Dock work isn't merely cosmetic

By GARY JOBSON and DICK D'AMATO

Annapolis' City Dock is about to undergo a vital face-lift, highlighting its importance to the economy and vitality of downtown Annapolis, and its role as a centerpiece of our community and culture.

The timing is critical. Our city center is facing multiple challenges for dollars and attention, not only from new and striking projects on West Street, such as Park Place, but from a whole new town center at the site of the former Parole Plaza.

So City Dock must reinvent itself to retain drawing power for families, students and retirees, as well as newly arriving groups.

At least $9 million is being dedicated to a major renovation of the guts of the dock itself: its face, pilings and foundation. This should stabilize it for decades to come.

Other initiatives are under way that promise to beautify and open up the area. Anchoring the north end of the dock will be the soaring national Sailing Hall of Fame. The facility will be designed to be interactive. It will educate one and all on the history of sailing and its place in the life of our bay.

A nationwide effort is under way to fund this vision. The effort is led by a dedicated group of Annapolis sailors and community leaders and a host of luminaries. Walter Cronkite is the honorary chairman of its advisory committee.

In addition, a proposed redesign of the water side of the Naval Academy Visitors Center would allow access to City Dock. This would add space and serve as a new connection between the town and the academy.

State-of-the-art racing sailboats - such as the Whitbread Race boat Chessie and other classic boats - will tie up at new piers on the northern end of the dock.

Gone will be the ugly rows of parking meters and garbage bins to the seaward side of the dockmaster's house, courtesy of an upcoming line item in Mayor Ellen O. Moyer's city budget.

In their place: a parking area, not of asphalt, but of a new environmentally friendly artificial surface. This area will do double duty for new events. It will be a city plaza for cultural attractions - musical, ceremonial, community, sporting or otherwise.

All this is just the beginning. There's plenty of room for creativity regarding our waterfront's many roles and uses - including the use of "Ego Alley," the waterway jutting through the city center.

This was once the mooring place of the bay's historic working and pleasure watercraft. Now it's merely a parking place for a collection of nondescript vessels lucky to get a spot at bargain-basement rates.

It's time for a renewed use of the waterway to show off the historic sailing, crabbing, oystering and other pleasure craft that have been such a proud part of the Chesapeake tradition.

City Dock can be enhanced as a community magnet - a centerpiece for cultural and family activities - if we choose to take advantage of it.

We are encouraged by the recent creation of a citizens' group to explore the city's long-term prospects, and we hope City Dock will be a special focus of the group's activities.

The mayor should establish a citizens body to examine anew this location's exhilarating potential. It should enlist all generations of Annapolitans in creating a continuing vision for City Dock.

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Gary Jobson, an Annapolis resident, is a sailing commentator on ESPN, and an author and lecturer. Dick D'Amato, an Annapolis attorney, is a former state delegate from District 30. Both are on the board of the National Sailing Hall of Fame.

Published February 18, 2007, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

(Revised Feb 2007)