New Dock Contributes to Sustainable Future of SMC Waterfront

Construciton on the exsisting dock (Photo by Jenny Metz)
Construciton on the exsisting dock (Photo by Jenny Metz)

The new $750,000 dock being built down on the waterfront will do more than provide extra space for dinghies, safety boats and sunbathers; its main utility will be breaking the waves that are slowly eroding the shoreline of the St. Mary’s River.

A sandy beach has already replaced the unsightly sandbags that made it seem as though the College is bracing for a flash flood. After fifteen years of deliberation and red tape, a practical solution that integrates both the human need for more dock space, and the environmental need for maintaining a near-natural habitat has been put into action and is nearing completion.

Designed as part of the College sustainability effort, and scheduled for completion at the end of September, the dock will help reclaim land lost due to erosion, which has eaten up nearly 35 feet of shoreline over the past 15 years.  Dubbed the “mini-me” of the older dock by Adam Werblow, head coach of the sailing team, it is about 60 percent smaller than its larger, older neighbor, but serves much the same purpose: saving the waterfront.

Werblow said that looking at the Waterfront,  “you can see how the beach has built up behind the old dock, and then you move over to the right and there’s virtually nothing.  This new dock will change that.” He  added later that “99 percent of this project is aimed towards three things: saving the waterfront, safety, and recreation.”

The dock’s construction involves a pier structure equipped with vertical battens, or wave screens, which extend about eight feet below the dock and break the waves down before they can reach the shore.  “This works better than say, building a rock wall, bulkhead, or marsh plantings, and gives the added convenience of having a place for the crew team to launch their boat instead of wading out into the water,” said Chip Jackson, Associate Vice President of Planning and Facilities.

A boat ramp made of stone and concrete extends out on the left side of the dock, providing easy access in and out of the water for all kinds of boats.  Floating platforms will secure 18 recreational sailboats in all by the end of next week, as well as provide a launch for the crew team.

The dock itself is only one phase of what has been dubbed “The Living Shoreline,” a project that includes planting grasses and other vegetation along the shore by Route 5.  These grasses, coupled with rocks that extend into the water, will “help filter the oil and other pollutants that runoff from the street,” said Werblow.  Those who feel like exploring this shoreline-under-construction will come across a new beach in front of the boat house, another practical result from the dock.

The construction effort has had its problems, though.  The remaining decking needed for the last half of the dock cannot be put in because the budget came up $30,000 short.  However, because the building permit does last for another three years, the College has time to raise those funds.

In addition to building the new dock, the construction crew is also replacing half of the old dock.  The first dock, built in the 50s, was “T” shaped and ran straight out into the water.  The college eventually added on to it in the 70s, giving it the “L” shape we see today. The older part was “on its way out” according to Werblow, and in desperate need of repair.  Future repairs to the old dock will include new decking on the latter half of the “L.”

While the dock is both functional for recreational purposes, The Living Shoreline plan will lead to greater environmental health.  “We needed to find a solution that would preserve the shoreline in a sustainable way while at the same time providing safe and easy access to the water,” said Jackson. “The unique combination of wave screen, crew launching platform, selective areas of marsh creation and limited amounts of rock will ensure that the shoreline is well protected while allowing providing an excellent recreational area.”

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