PORTLAND – For years, small kayaks and large ocean barges carrying heavy equipment to the islands of Casco Bay have shared a boat launch area in Portland’s East End.

Now a neighborhood organization is calling on the city to move its commercial boat ramp from the East End Beach boat launch.

Friends of the Eastern Promenade says recreational and commercial boat traffic are incompatible, and that truck traffic and piles of building materials at the boat launch disrupt the quality of life on Munjoy Hill.

Relocation of the commercial boat launch is one of the group’s priorities.

“It’s a major public safety issue in this park,” said Diane Davison, president of the group, to about 30 people who gathered Wednesday night at the East End Community School for a neighborhood meeting.

Getting commercial boat traffic off the East End ramp — kayakers and other recreational boaters use a separate ramp that is within a few feet of the commercial ramp — was identified as a priority in a master plan developed by the city in 2003.

Commercial boat traffic consists of barges carrying heavy cargo such as city trash trucks, home building equipment or fuel to Casco Bay islands.

“The commercial boat ramp serves the city as a vital link to the islands,” the master plan says. “In addition to being unsightly and inappropriate for a historic park, these activities are incompatible with the intended function and visual character of the park.”

The master plan says that materials scheduled for transport are often left for long periods at the East End boat launch, taking up valuable parking space.

The launch is part of Eastern Promenade Park, 80 acres of sloping lawns overlooking Casco Bay. The Eastern Prom is a registered national landmark.

“We want the city to understand they have a huge conflict here,” said Rob Whitten, a member of the Friends of the Eastern Promenade’s board of directors. “As an organization, we are trying to generate some public interest, and perhaps some controversy.”

Nicole Clegg, spokeswoman for the city, said officials are aware of the neighborhood’s concerns and plan to meet with the organization in June.

“This is really just the very beginning of a conversation about relocating our commercial activities,” Clegg said.

Whitten said his group has identified two areas that might accommodate a commercial boat launch.

One is next to the Ocean Gateway terminal off Commercial Street. The other is in front of the wastewater treatment domes along the East End walking trail.

Clegg said the city has not begun to consider alternative sites and will have to go through a process to determine whether it makes sense to build a ramp on city property, or whether property should be purchased.

Though moving the ramp was identified as a goal in the 2003 master plan, it was not deemed a high priority, Clegg said.

The city adopted some minor steps, such as restricting where trucks can go around the East End and restricting truck activity in the boat ramp parking area.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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