Citizens weigh in on Dunkirk Pier project

Mixed reviews

OBSERVER Photo by Jo Ward. The current construction at Dunkirk Pier following the first month.

The Dunkirk Pier project is heading into its fifth week of construction, and so far the reviews have been mixed. Many individuals seem happy that the improvement is coming, others not so much, while most are somewhere in the middle.

“We think progress is good and we think more people should be on the pier because more people on the pier means there’s a better chance for a cleaner lake,” Mark Lorenc, owner of Mark Lorenc Charters told the OBSERVER. “My concern is traffic flow and the lack of planning for the boats.”

Lorenc went on to explain that with the addition of a sidewalk near the boat launch, that the narrowing is making launching and retrieving of boats difficult.

“How do you get a trailer that’s empty back to the dock to load the boat that just came in? Currently what we do is get into the loop and wait, if you bring a boat in to retrieve, you go around by going in the wide row, turning around where the building is in the parking lot for the marina and then backing up,” Lorenc said. “What the builders are doing is putting a curb in and taking away that room. So, right now, it’s single file in and out; there’s no way that if you bring a boat in, to bypass the line of boats waiting.”

Lorenc offered up a worst-case scenario, stating that with a backed up launch, and trailers trying to get around, that the congestion will block vehicles from getting down into the pier, and that can prove dangerous if there is a medical emergency and rescue equipment can’t get through.

“The roads are narrowing, the traffic’s going to go up because it’s going to be pretty, and now that it’s pretty and there’s more people, they’re going to have even more opportunities for someone to accidentally get hurt.”

Another concerned business owner has been receiving calls from people about where they should go fish now. Gerri Begier, owner of Bill’s Hooks on Lake Road, wonders what’s in store for the city with several fishermen moving on to other towns.

“When they started Music on the Pier, it cut off the fishermen, because they shut the pier down before 4 p.m. and they can’t get back in until after 9 p.m.,” Begier said. “A lot of the guys have become so discouraged that instead of going out of our harbor, they’ve gone up to Barcelona.”

Business hasn’t been the best as of late either as Begier stated that she’s only seeing about one-third the customers she usually has this time of year, despite that, the idea of progress is fine with her.

“The idea is alright, I just think that Thursday nights should be left alone. They’ve got Memorial Park there, why not have the music there? Why not utilize that park? The only time it’s really utilized is on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July,” Begier added.

Concerned citizen, Zen Olow, president of the Chautauqua County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs is not a fan of the changes. In a conversation with the OBSERVER, he cited memories of the fish tugs on the lake and the gillnetters that frequented the area.

“It’s a fishing spot,” Olow stated. “The dock is not designed for this, it’s taking away from the sportsmen. There are plenty of parks in the city where the concerts can be utilized.”

Olow spoke of the large fishing tourneys coming up this summer. He and other organizers are anticipating that around 400 people, over the course of four competitions, will attend, and bring with them anywhere from 40-70 boats depending on the event.

Rebecca Yanus, director of planning and development for the city of Dunkirk, is hopeful that the vision the city has will meet expectations.

“For the entire project, it’s about improving the pier, it’s improving the existing amenities,” Yanus said. “We’ve worked with the Harbor Commission, I’ve spoken with multiple fishermen and we want to improve those amenities. We want to make this a destination place that when this is all complete and the fishermen and tournaments come to this area, people will be excited and want to stay and spend their money here.”

Yanus went on to explain that the city is in talks with current marina owner, Charles Pringle, to make sure that a plan in place to make things flow easier for boaters at the ramp.

“We’re looking at different options,” she said. “Such as possibly utilizing the city’s lot on Lakeshore Drive and doing some kind of service back and forth, but we’re still working out those pieces and we’ll definitely be posting the plan.”

When asked about the utilization of Memorial Park, Yanus spoke about the possible phase two of the project.

“Through our planning efforts, we’ve looked at the bigger picture, not just the pier, but the whole entire waterfront for Dunkirk,” Yanus said. “Memorial Park is a possible phase two project, creating a bandstand would be great, wouldn’t it be wonderful having entertainment there going on with vendors at the pier and people could go just move back and forth? I think once the construction is completed, that more tournaments will want to come here, perhaps even bigger tournaments. We want to create a place where people that like to fish, can go out then come back, grab some food, listen to some music and spend their money in Dunkirk. It’s a beautiful asset, we just want to build on it.”

As for why the project wasn’t started after Labor Day, Yanus explained that the funding expires at the end of 2019 and if there was anything that couldn’t get done, due to the vast weather differences that can happen in the fall months, there’d be no funding in 2020 to complete them.

She, along with the city, would also like to remind residents that the boat launch, the marina and the harbor are still open and will continue to be open throughout the construction process.

“I understand that it’s a rough year this year because of construction, but we’re going to be reaping the benefits in the coming years, businesses are going to be booming once we’re done.”