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Norwalk Council approves $166K for Harbor Plan

A look at the Norwalk Harbor from East Norwalk in June 2023. (Photo by Kelly Prinz)

“How do you get Norwalkers more access to the water in a more meaningful way? How do we bring in tourism and boaters coming in from the water? How do we identify what the capital need is?” These are some of the questions Jessica Vonashek, Norwalk’s chief of community and economic development, said she hopes a new harbor plan will help answer. 

“As a community that has so much access to water, sometimes we get so desensitized to how amazing that is,” Vonashek said at the April 4 Economic and Community Development Committee meeting.

She said the goal of this plan is to “really get our arms around what opportunities lie around the harbor,” particularly in terms of  recreation, tourism, and industrial and commercial uses.  

The Council voted to approve the funding at its April 9 meeting as part of its consent agenda.

Vonashek said that’s something she and other staff members have been talking about with the Harbor Commission, but some residents, including Lynnelle Jones, said they believed the Harbor and Shellfish Commission should have been even more involved. 

“[You’ve] seen my criticism of the process of developing this RFP without the Harbor and Shellfish Commission,” Jones said, adding that “public trust will sink to a new low” if the committee voted to advance the project without getting more feedback from the commissions. She also took issue with the fact that there were only two bids for the project. 

Resident Diane Lauricella also expressed surprise that  “this much money is needed” for this study. 

The city will spend $125,000 of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the study, along with $44,000 from a grant from the CT Port Authority to study streets that end along Norwalk Harbor.

This study is separate from the Harbor Management Plan, which “provides goals and objectives and establishes the basis for policies and area specific guidelines for the harbor, but it does not provide a vision on how the harbor could be fully utilized for public use or as an economic engine for the city,” according to a memo from Vonashek

The draft scope of what consultant Indigo River Consulting will do includes: conducting an audit on the current uses of the harbor; providing recommendations for the “orderly, safe, and efficient allocation of the harbor for boating;” identifying ways to enhance development and preservation of the harbor and potential projects to improve the harbor and possible funding sources, and recommending uses for the city-owned parcels after the Walk Bridge is complete.

Vonashek said that there will be a steering committee involved with the consultant that will include multiple representatives from the Harbor Management Commission and Shellfish Commission. 

Council member Jim Frayer said that in his career, he worked as a consultant “helping to develop revitalization programs for different harbors.” 

“The economic impact of having marinas and having waterfront access to cities is a tremendous influence, it’s a real moneymaker,” he said, citing areas “across Long Island Sound,” like Glen Cove, where there are interesting places to go, restaurants along the water, and places for people to dock their boats and visit for the day. 

Comments

4 responses to “Norwalk Council approves $166K for Harbor Plan”

  1. Skip Hagerty

    I hope this firm will tell us how to ensure Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as it relates to harbor usage.

  2. Bryan Meek

    What? We could’ve bought 4 christmas trees for this kind of money or another 100 garbage cans…..or even a few replacement batteries for the EV collecting dust in the garage. The harbor will be just fine with O&G beautifying it.

  3. Kenneth Werner

    Bryan, you suggest the Norwalk Council is throwing money away by approving the Harbor Plan. Think of this as market and facilities research, which it is. The research will show Norwalk the way to attracting water-born tourism, increasing harbor-oriented commerce, and increasing our city’s prosperity.

    1. Bryan Meek

      Come on Ken. Throwing money away? This council? They’ve only started adding to the damage that’s been done for the last 10 years.. I don’t have an exact number but off the top of my head I can think of at least $10 million worth of studies and plans we have paid for that are sitting on the shelf collecting dust doing nothing.

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