Beaufort City Council should say "no" to the suggestion that a new dock be built off the seawall of the city's crown jewel, the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
The park was thoughtfully designed by the brightest minds in the nation. It is no accident that its majestic views of Beaufort's bay are unobstructed. It is no accident that the park is thereby a magnet for people of all ages, the center for community events, an engine for the downtown economy and a great asset for the city.
The accident -- make that inexcusable mistake -- would be for this generation to mess it up.
The city already has a day dock. It is in a logical, functional location -- steps from the Waterfront Park and adjacent businesses that want to attract more nautical visitors.
The city has a plan to expand the 150-foot day dock, which can be used free of charge, into a 250-foot dock. That's fine, even though observers tell us the existing dock is rarely full. The day dock is conveniently located beside a boat landing, the city parking lot and the nearby mooring field in the Beaufort River that the city rightly wants to improve.
It has been pointed out that the day dock is near the carriage tour embarkation point, meaning the first impression visitors may get is the strong whiff of horse-related smells. If that is a problem, it is a separate issue from the potential destruction of the unobstructed views from the Waterfront Park, and it should be handled separately. Apparently, that aroma is not stopping visitors from boarding the carriages for tours through town. The tours also are an important draw for downtown businesses. Most boaters are accustomed to a variety of smells that come with being out in the elements. And people who use the day dock have a paved walkway all the way to the Waterfront Park, a three-minute walk that does not take them through the carriage-tour loading area.
The city also has a large marina between the day dock and the Waterfront Park. It offers short-term docking space at reasonable rates. Our speculation is that this is the most likely option chosen by the high-rollers the city wants to attract to visit, shop, stay a while and perhaps even become residents of Beaufort.
City Council needs to doggedly protect the integrity of the Waterfront Park. It was planned beautifully, and it works. It works for businesses, families, visitors, residents, children, the elderly, fishermen and boaters. It is laid out logically. It puts Beaufort's best foot forward. It gives the city a tangible heart. It speaks to the soul in a way that is hard to put into words, but easy to ruin by needless tinkering. Keep the seawall clear and uncluttered.