By BEN GRAFTON
On April 18, the Freeport Planning Department held the third workshop in a series dedicated to developing its working waterfront district under provisions of the Working Waterfronts Florida program.
Before a small participating audience City Planner Latilda Henninger discussed priority issues that included keeping overbuilding under control and maintaining the district as a working waterfront. Henninger commented that the end result of this process is two-fold: First, to have a vision plan with goals and objectives the city can adopt and second, to have policies in place to protect the fishermen, the boat builders and others.
Henninger called on Cliff Knauer of Preble-Rish Engineering who is working on development of a vision plan for Freeport’s waterfront to bring the group up to date. Knauer indicated that a lot of information developed in the workshop meetings will become a part of the plan. He reminded the group that at the last meeting the participants came up with some good ideas to improve the Four Mile Creek area. He credited Billy McLean for a good recommendation to install a mooring piling field where barges and tug boats could tie up. This would eliminate shore damage and mortality to trees presently used for this purpose. Another good idea from the last meeting was to study the potential of the old shipyard as a means of improving the Four Mile Creek Park and parking area.
Knauer reported there will be six sections to the vision plan. The first section will outline the historic importance of Four Mile Creek. The second will be Freeport’s vision and mission statement. The third is for planning and development and to ensure changes meet the requirements of the Comprehensive Plan. The fourth will state goals, objectives and strategies which will all come from the meetings. The fifth will recommend programs and projects. The sixth will cover plan implementation.
Knauer commented that at the present only limited funding is available, but he noted that in the past Working Waterfronts Florida has been funded and it is believed funding will become available in the future.
Henninger introduced Julie Dennis of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity who is working with the city on this program. Dennis indicated that meetings are held twice a year where representatives from communities all over the state get together and share information about working waterfront development projects. Freeport representatives should attend. The next meeting will be held in Crystal River
Dennis showed four draft examples of vision statements prepared from information developed at the last meeting. She recommended that participants identify the features in each draft which they liked best and to use that information as the base from which to build the Freeport statement.
A discussion followed in which different ideas were offered as goals and objectives. In addition to the mooring field and of the old shipyard property, additional ideas including these items were put forth: provide signage to direct visitors to the waterfront district. Install commercial boat slips near the bridge over Four Mile Creek and give local commercial fishermen preference in securing these slips. Develop a viable plan for disposing of dredge spoils and have the creek and bayou dredged to provide better access for commercial boats. Develop and post no-wake zones. Mark historical spots with appropriate markers. Provide a seafood market and a bait shop for fishermen. Provide a good seafood restaurant on the waterfront. Develop safe harbor facilities for boats seeking shelter from major storms. And, improve port facilities to attract more barge traffic.
Henninger advised participants that a draft vision statement and plan were expected to be presented to the City Council on May 7. The Council will be asked to will review the statement and plan and to adopt an ordinance to officially incorporate the statement and plan into the Comprehensive Plan and Development Code.
The next Working Waterfronts meeting is scheduled for May 2.