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PUBLIC PIERS GOING TO THE RICH

At the last Piers, Harbor and Lakefront Committee meeting on Wednesday, March 20th, the big discussion was about the boat launch area on the west end of Library Park.  Item #12 was a discussion and recommendation regarding the installation of a security gate at the west end pier location. Installing a security gate would quite effectively turn this public pier into a form of exclusive private property. Several boat slip renters are in favor of the gate being installed and the reasons they have given for this move are all about the amount of “public” people (who are not slip renters) using and abusing the pier and causing vandalism to some of the boats that are located in the slips for the summer.

Many residents who use the pier for swimming off of, or fishing, stated that this was not true. Those opposed to the installation of security gates feel the existence of the gates would ruin the look and feel of the area, as well as having nothing to do with security issues that don’t exist. The entire area around these highly prized pier slips (the waiting list to get one is many years long) is used for more than just boating and the public and private usage of the piers. There is also a kayak launch area nearby, and many dogs that swim in the lake use that entrance and the small strip of sand (which is referred to as the “dog beach”). The piers are also very close to the Lake Shore Path west end entrance.

How can Lake Geneva live up to the new marketing slogan: “the one of a kind unwind,” if security gates start popping up around the lake at locations that have formerly been accessible to the public? This seemingly small and innocuous item is sure to be the big topic on the agenda of many of the city council meetings that will be held in the spring and summer months. The next Piers, Harbor, and Lakefront Committee meeting is Wednesday, April 17th at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, and quite possibly, it is time for the residents to rise up and attend the meeting to speak and also show how they feel about being left out, or locked out. Quite possibly, as well, this assembled public might indicate that a referendum should be called to decide whether to continue the existence of those possibly “private” piers or whether the rates to rent them should be quadrupled.

The public has that right and might have that inclination if it is to be forced to fund the piers and their maintenance yet get no access or benefit from their continued existence. If the Piers, Harbor and Lakefront Committee votes to allow this then the existence of that organized advisory body might also be looking at some sort of more disciplined control or dissolution. Part of the Riviera Pier complex in downtown Lake Geneva is already subject to some of this new privatization of public property. The pier that extends out from the main body toward the south on the west side is gated and locked up every night during the summer season in order to provide maximum security and protection for the Gage Marine boats. Those boats are private and they do not share their revenues with the City of Lake Geneva or the residents and taxpayers. Gage Marine pays a ridiculously low rent for all the space it has, and this new remodel or re-imaging of the Riviera (set to cost over four million dollars) is not going to be paid for by Gage Marine. The public will pay.

The public should pay, but if the public pays then it also should get full access.

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