Islanders may have one less way to access the water this summer.
The Mercer Island City Council voted on March 20 to solicit bids for a restoration project at Groveland Beach Park. The city is planning to shut down use of the park’s deteriorating docks on May 1, before the high-use summer season, but anticipates keeping the playground open, said natural resources manager Alaine Sommargren.
Sommargren is planning to come back to the council in early May with a request for bid award. If the council decides not to go through with the project this year, only the docks will be closed, and not the swim or picnic areas, she said.
Groveland is one of two public beaches with lifeguards on Mercer Island and the repair or replacement of its docks has been included in the city’s six-year capital plan since 2013.
The project’s funding has been delayed and reduced as the city has juggled other capital needs, reallocating half of the Groveland budget to the sports field renovation at Island Crest Park last year.
In 2014, an engineering consultant determined that the summer of 2017 was the last season the Groveland docks could be used without an upgrade.
“This is obviously a project we need to take care of,” said council member Benson Wong. “It would be great to make this dock useful as soon as we can.”
The large dock and concrete bulkhead at the beach, both constructed in 1967, were set to be replaced at the end of their “useful life,” at a cost of about $1 million, two years ago. In addition to postponing the project, the council reduced the scope from a replacement to a repair.
If they wait much longer, a repair may not be an option.
“Permitting agencies have limitations about how long docks can be left unusable,” which is about 12 months, Sommargren said.
The total project cost is still expected to be about $962,000, and involves repairing the substructure of the large dock and installing a wave attenuation system, which will reduce erosion on the shoreline, Sommargren said. The repairs to the large dock are expected to extend its lifespan by 10-15 years.
The small dock will be removed, cutting costs and improving sight lines for lifeguards.
To fund the project, the city will use money from the King County Parks levy and savings from Island Crest and Clarke Beach Park projects, as well as 2017 real estate excise tax (REET) surplus or one-time money from the merging of the criminal justice and general funds, said finance director Chip Corder.
Construction is expected to begin in June and last through November this year, with shoreline access re-opening in early 2019.
Much of Mercer Island’s infrastructure, from parks to pipes, is about 50 years old and will need to be replaced soon, according to the city. As part of its public outreach concerning the upcoming budget deficits, the city asked a community advisory group to look at its operating and capital needs.
The group, which has been weighing the merits of a levy lid lift, will soon make its recommendation to the city council.
See www.mercergov.org/FinancialChallenges for more.