THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

$4m effort aims to fix Esplanade dock

By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / April 16, 2010

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Community Boating’s deteriorating timber dock slopes unevenly from its boathouse to the Charles River, causing a bumpy ride yesterday in spots for Brenda Hazard, a boating aficionado from Worcester who uses a wheelchair.

Her friend, Melissa Couepel, 24, walked cautiously across portions of the floating dock. Her equilibrium is not what it used to be after a brain injury from a car accident about three years ago, and the uneven planks can cause her to fall.

The boathouse and dock serve thousands of visitors each year, including 2,400 young people from the inner city, as well as people such as Couepel and Hazard, for whom boating is part of their efforts at rehabilitation from traumatic brain injuries.

Yesterday, state officials announced they are launching a $4 million project to repair and improve the Community Boating complex, in part to make it more accessible to people with disabilities, and to make it more attractive to potential sailors. The funding will come from a combination of state and private funds.

“It’s clearly a marvelous program on the Esplanade, and we want to be as supportive as we can,’’ said Governor Deval Patrick, who toured the site yesterday and met with Hazard, Couepel, and others who use the dock. “I know the issues around the quality and the conditions of the dock have been around for some time now.’’

Community Boating is a nonprofit agency that operates a sailing program along the Esplanade near the Hatch Shell. The organization claims to be the oldest and largest public sailing program in the United States; sailing lessons began there in 1936.

Three years ago, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation sought input on a design for replacing the docks. The project will also repair the dock house, sail shed, and boat ramp structure, and will improve access to the main boathouse entrance.

Holger Kunst of Community Boating said, “The new dock will be in a very similar layout to what we have now, but it will be improved to accommodate our universal access program.’’

Kunst said work will begin at the end of the sailing season, in September or October, and will resume in the spring. “Hopefully, we will be able to open again in April or May,’’ Kunst said.

The restoration of the boating docks is among several state projects to upgrade the Esplanade on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. The state is also doing about $4.8 million worth of work along Storrow Drive and Soldiers Field Road between Leverett Circle and the Eliot Bridge.

Brian Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com.

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