Norwalk Parks and Rec: Dredging did not destroy ramp

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Planks at the end of the Veterans Park boat ramp are revealed by a recent low tide.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk harbor keepers have a warning for boaters – don’t use the ramps at Veterans Park.

It’s been a steady refrain issued by Shellfish Commission Chairman Pete Johnson, who has said repeatedly that the recent Vets Park dredging has damaged the boat ramps. He also said planks were dropped on shellfish beds.

Thursday, several commission members chimed in to echo Johnson’s thoughts on the ramps. This is in direct opposition to comments made earlier this week by Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mocciae.

“Basically the bottom line is ‘thank you Peter,’ but it’s been 20 years too late to tell us that there’s problems with the launch ramps. We’ve been petitioning for money to redo these launch ramps for 20-plus years,” Mocciae said Monday.

Johnson said he witnessed the dredging company pull up parts of the ramp.

“I was there watching them,” he said. “They were taking them and throwing them on the natural bed. After they did that they dug at the end of where they took the planks out. So now it’s like a 5-foot drop. … At low tide the end of the ramp is gone. At half tide you’ve got about 10 feet of water. At high tide you might be able to get a 16-foot boat in.”

All of Norwalk is a natural shellfish bed, Johnson said. Shellfish can crop up anywhere.

“The stuff inside that mud, plankton, that’s what feeds everything,” Johnson said. “You cover it, you kill it. All of Norwalk is considered a natural bed. We’ve got places that haven’t had oysters in 10 years; you won’t have any, then all of a sudden there will be a set there. You could not have them for five years, then you’ve got them for 10 years in a row, then not, they’ve moved over to the other side of the river. It depends on the current flow. When they start to spawn you don’t know where they’re going to wind up. They attach to something, then they grow.”

Mocciae said shellfish might grow near the docks, but no one would harvest them. The mud is polluted, he said.

He agreed there is an issue at the bottom of the ramp.

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A Veterans Park boat ramp at low tide.

“The boards randomly disappear and come up at any given time because of the fact that the main understructure is not sound anymore,” Mocciae said. “So could some of those boards come dislodged because of dredging? Maybe. Or just the bad winter, or people that were using them prior to that. So every spring we have to go down and replace as many as we can. That’s the issue because you can’t replace or fix them much anymore because there’s nothing to fix them to anymore. So we know there’s an issue at midtides or when there’s a very low tide because you can’t go down to a certain point because there’s no boards anymore anyway. So it didn’t have anything to do with dredging, except for the fact that that loosened some boards up. They were going to be loose anyway, they had to be repaired.”

The outside ramps haven’t been used in more than 30 years, he said. The dredging was the first step in a plan to resolve all of this, he said.

“Every spring it’s a panic because we don’t know what’s left,” Mocciae said. “We don’t know what we have to do to repair it and get it working. So the first step of that was to get a dredge. The second step is looking for new money this year for engineering of new ramps, which so far is in the budget. Thirdly, next year, we’ll be looking for money to redo the ramps themselves, through the city and the state. So it’s a progression. We know the ramps are bad, Pete. But 20 years. If you sent those pictures 20 years ago you would have been a bigger help than complaining now.”

There is a $75,000 request in the 2014-15 capital budget for the engineering of new ramps. There is a request in the 2015-16 capital budget for $750,000 to cover building new ramps.

At this point, those requests are recommended for approval.

Councilman Jerry Petrini, chairman of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee, said the dredging and ramp repair grew out of the recent development of a master plan for the park.

“That was one of the first things in the first 5-year plan of what we would need to do. The ramps were coming up and coming up. That’s why Mike put in this year for the engineering,” he said.

There is a 2016-17 capital budget request for $1.6 million for phase 1 of the Veterans Park Master Plan boating center, including parking. That is also recommended for approval.

Mocciae said he suspects that the dredging dug up “some of the old boards that were disconnected and way out at the end, that you couldn’t even get to to repair anymore.”

“It’s no worse than it was,” Petrini said.

Commission members said Johnson needs to get the post-dredging survey to see what really happened under the water.

Johnson has been complaining about that, too. There was a survey provided, but not to the same scale as the pre-dredging survey, so it’s impossible to compare them, he said. The final post-dredging survey has not been delivered, although he has asked Mocciae for it, as has the Harbor Management Commission, he said.

He has complained to Sue Jacobson of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), he said.

“Sue Jacobson is getting so disgusted with it she is basically saying, ‘Well, that’s a city problem. You people got to work it out.’ Well how are you going to work it out with someone who won’t even give you the drawings?” he said.

Mocciae said the post-dredging survey will be done by the end of next week. It’s mandatory: the state wants a survey within 90 days of the end of the dredging, he said.

Shellfish Commissioner Jonathan Maggio said people should not use the boat ramps.

“I did hear someone dropped a trailer, it actually fell off the end of the ramp,” he said. “They were fortunate. They were able to get it off with a tow truck.”

There is an “end of ramp” sign at the park now. Norwalk Police marine officer Pete Lapak said maybe a new sign needs to go up.

Not in the commission’s purview, members said.

Commissioner Patrick Davito said technically it is. If a car goes into the water, there would be a gasoline spill, he said.

Mocciae said the end of the ramp sign is serious – don’t go past that point, he said.

“When you get to ‘end of ramp’ that is the end of ramp. You’re not supposed to go any further,” he said.

People who don’t follow the directions lose their trailer, he said.

“That’s happening more and more because you know what? The tides are changing,” he said.

“Lower-lower, higher-higher,” Petrini said.

“They go off the end,” Mocciae said. “As they’re pulling their trailer back up they’re pulling boards up. It’s getting worse and worse. Once you can’t Band-Aid it anymore, that’s a problem. You’ve got to put a barricade in front of the ramp and say you can’t get out until another two hours. That’s a problem. We’ve been doing that for the last two years, on tides.”

Fear not, he said — all in good time.

“We have a good plan,” he said. “The dredging has been done. … Everything going in a logical direction for us to be finished in two years.”

Planks are pulled up on Jan. 18 in the area of the Veterans Park boat ramp. (Photo by Pete Johnson)
Planks sit near the Veterans Park boat ramp in this photo taken by Pete Johnson.



7 responses to “Norwalk Parks and Rec: Dredging did not destroy ramp”

  1. Suzanne

    Mr. Johnson, you can have the drawing you seek by going to your nearest Kinko’s or other copy shop. It requires a little math and, sometimes, a bit of guessing, but one drawing scale can easily be matched to the other using the enlarge/reduce feature on a copy machine. Sitting around and waiting for the perfect solution can be cured with a little initiative. There are light boxes at copy shops that, when the new drawing is enlarged/reduced as necessary, will show the alignment of the key permanent features on the old drawing with the new drawing changes simultaneously enlarged, matching the original drawing to the enlarged/reduced new copy. Reading this article, a single drawing is not the hold up entirely but complaining that you can’t get a key tool because it is not available to you is a specious argument.

  2. Oldtimer

    There is a five foot deep drop off the end of what is left of a ramp and Mocciae thinks that can be fixed with some new boards ? The entire launch ramp concept requires an even slope from the paved parking lot down into the water, far enough to be able to launch or recover a boat with a trailer most of the time. With tides close to seven feet, that requires a pretty long slope, with a hard surface. It sounds like he dredger may have dug more than he should have out of the slope. It is obvious Mocciae does not understand how shellfish reproduce and shellfish produced at that end of the park travel considerable distances downstream before they “set”

  3. Casey Smith

    All of Norwalk is a natural shellfish bed, Johnson said. Shellfish can crop up anywhere.

    Okay, the natural beds are protected, which means that all of Norwalk’s shore, the beach, and the river front are now off limits. Clearly, the oysters have taken over and there is no room for us anymore, so why not just close everything down? Get rid of all the boats, boat clubs, the docks, the ramps, and don’t allow swimming at the beaches. Oh, yeah and don’t forget to pull all the new piles for the new pier. Just think, there won’t be anymore encroachment on the beds, no problem with moorings in the harbor, no problems with the Washington Street bridge going up and down and the oyster beds will be safe. Sounds like a win/win to me.

  4. Mitch Adis

    The scene at the ramp is amusing. People driving into the water, boats falling off trailers, wheels ripped of trailers because the went off the end of the ramps. In the 30 years I have use the ramps I have never seen them closed because the tide was too low. Also, the “End of Ramp” signs are a joke! At high tide a boat is still a foot above water if you obey the sign. They are meaningless! That is why nobody pays attention to them. I have heard enough excuses already. Do your jobs and fix the ramps. Every year the city collects money from the ramps use. Where is the money?

  5. spanner

    Mocciae said shellfish might grow near the docks, but no one would harvest them. The mud is polluted, he said.(is that what the warning signs say)

    This is starting to sound like part of the contaminated waste sites along the river loop.No danger unless you ask about them.

    It’s no worse than it was,” Petrini said.He also said Cashman wasn’t interested in working for Norwalk and its dock area too small of a job that was false.A few calls to Cashman tells another story,they are based down the coast here in Ct and deny thay said anything like that.Cashman is proud of the fact they have worked for Norwalk over the years and never a problem.

    $1.6 million for phase 1 of the Veterans Park Master Plan boating center does testing the ground around this center and vets park included in these plans?

    Just out of curiosity does anyone know what the mud contains?

    The tanks that once stood on water street directly accross from the ramp contained what material?Its said GE also had a hand in that is that true?

    That empty lot where construction workers park free for the new Water st buiding, next to Sono Seafood has a great system in place to collect waste, buried out of sight has that been mentioned at all as a possible source of contamination?The system put in never went below the water table how effective was that system?

    Where is Mayors Rillings task force?

  6. Ahab

    Who is in charge of this beautiful and well run facility.? Who oversees the day to day operations and dockage.?

    According to the city’s web site the answers are Mr. Moccaie and Harbormaster Griffin.

    Interesting …….Why is a state official appointed to oversee and insure safe operation of Norwalk Harbor, also a paid member of Mr Moccaie’s inner circle?

    Should we assume that the best and brightest of Norwalk are properly overseeing this facility???What was the facility development plan? Who was in charge of the dredging project? Who set the “end of ramp” stakes clearly visible in NoN photos?

    I think Mr Johnson’s request for pre and post dredge surveys is warranted. it is also a reasonable request for the charts to be supplied in the sale scale. The folks on the NHMC know how to read charts and have requested the same information several times.

    This issue is a symptom of a greater problem. While the Rec and Parks Director has demonstrated he can generate revenue from every corner and closet of our public parks, he has not convinced anyone on the waterfront that he knows “jack” about running docks, piers, marina’s, moorings and the new unrestricted commercial waterfront facility.

    Fast forward to today. It is the :Directors position that only a few boards on the ramps are loose and they will be easily fixed. I wonder if his facility manager supplied him this information? the truth will come out shortly. Pictures do not lie.

    The waterfront has faced bigger challenges, just not from within.

  7. spanner

    Cashman just finished a job along the coast seems to have some of the same coast line that Norwalk river had.

    Dredging of approximately 70,000 CY of material including an entrance channel, transition area and mooring/docking basin by mechanical method with open sea disposal of the dredged material. Difficulties included dredging relatively shallow depths (to -7′ below low water) and working with a 10-foot tide range.

    Lets say they got away with it this time and told us all stories.Cashman had the equipment and it was in Ct and they never said Norwalk was too small of a job.

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