Schenectady County

Supporters of new dock plan rally today

Gerald Plante wants people to see how much of a struggle it is to bring a kayak down to the Mohawk R

Gerald Plante wants people to see how much of a struggle it is to bring a kayak down to the Mohawk River from his Front Street residence.

Absent a boat launch, he needs to scale roughly 20 feet down a steep and sometimes slippery embankment to reach the shore. Once there, the murky water makes it somewhat difficult to gauge the river’s depth or whether there are any obstructions.

“I want to enjoy the river,” he said Friday. “It’s all about access.”

Plante and other supporters of building a dock to reach the river are expected to converge at Riverside Park today in a show of support for the city’s controversial plan. The rally at noon is expected to draw area boat enthusiasts to show city leaders there is still strong support for the project.

Members of the City Council are considering a state grant-supported proposal for building a seasonal dock to moor the Onrust in Schenectady. The dock could also be used to launch small watercraft, such as kayak and canoes, from the water’s edge.

“They have [docks] on the other side of the Mohawk; why can’t we have one here?” Plante asked.

Initially, the project included a 300-foot dock in Riverside Park. But the concept was met with an outpouring of criticism from city residents — including a number of Stockade Association members — for potentially disrupting the historic neighborhood and its quiet waterfront.

City officials have since scaled back their vision for the dock and are even considering other locations. However, the revisions didn’t convince some in the neighborhood, which opposed the measure by a 2-to-1 ratio during a non-binding vote in April.

Officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation are awaiting a completed application from the city before considering permits for the project. The agency will seek comment from the public prior to issuing the necessary approvals.

Council members were initially expected to vote on the project sometime this month. Council President Gary McCarthy said the project won’t be addressed in June but could come to a vote sometime next month.

He acknowledged that the dock has caused a divide among residents. In the end, he said the council will try to chose a resolution that is passable for both sides.

“Everybody is not going to be 100 percent happy,” he said.

McCarthy said the end result could be a dock that moves along areas of the Mohawk in Schenectady from time to time. He said such a dock could be tailored to passive recreational use, rather than drawing from the boat traffic along the Erie Canal.

“If you put in a smaller dock, you’re not going to get all this tourist traffic,” he said. “It would be more to provide access for the individuals that live there.”

And that would be fine for someone like Plante. He said that all of the surrounding communities have areas where small craft can be launched and none seem to suffer the fate that some of the dock opponents suggest.

“It’s not that this is going to be a marina,” he said of the proposal. “It’s going to be a floating dock and one that’s only going to be seasonal.”

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