A pedestrian walkway connecting Whitney Wharf to 3 Otis St. may go from plans to reality with the help of a $300,000 request for Community Preservation Committee funds.
The project is still being vetted by the committee, which would entirely fund the project with a “recreation” labeling to ensure it's eligible for CPC money.
It’s only one of the dreams of the Harbor Development Committee, and something Selectmen Bruce Rabuffo said selectmen are tentatively on board with.
Although no vote has been taken, after mentioning it to other selectmen, “It is something selectmen want, but the way the process works is the CPC decides, get public comment, and then it comes to us,” said Rabuffo, who is the selectmen's liaison to the CPC.
According to Rabuffo, this is the third time the committee has attempted to seek town funding for the project, but the first time it has received tentative backing by selectmen.
Previously, the plans were for a pedestrian walkway closer to 3A, a concept that couldn't be structurally supported by the seawall in place and was too close to the road. Another option was to grade the walkway; however, that wouldn't be handicapped-accessible.
This most recent version would elevate the entire walkway above the tide fluctuations.
If approved through CPC, the project would go through a public comment period and public hearing process to fully vet the development. From there it would move on to selectmen, Advisory Board, and eventually Town Meeting for approval.
In the interim, the Harbor Development Committee hopes people submit their own comments by mailing a letter to 210 Central St., Hingham, or attend one of their monthly meetings to speak about it in person.
The bridge would increase public access to Hingham Harbor and provide for safer access to Whitney Wharf, project proponents said on the town’s webpage.
According to Alan Perrault, a member of the Harbor Development Committee, it's also the linchpin to a larger concept.
"If you want to create a pedestrian walkway along the harbor, you want it to be pedestrian friendly. Part of the problem is you have to come by those signal traffic and the rotary with 3A," Perrault said. "The idea is if we were doing this harbor walk overall, is this is they linchpin. Connecting Whitney Wharf without going to the sidewalk."
From there, the committee could work on expanding the harbor walk on both ends, connecting it eventually to the Bathing Beach to the left and to the Lincoln Maritime School on the other end.
"It will hopefully help us getting bonds from the state...it might be the catalyst to get the town more money for bigger picture things we’re hoping to do," Perrault said.
The committee would also like to undertake a feasibility study on the Town Marina concept, monitor annual contributions to the dredging fund, analyze the potential for an enterprise funding for Hingham Harbor, allow for kayaking programs, and improve access to Steamboat Wharf, the Back River, and the Bouve Property and linkages between Whitney Wharf, the former Mobil Station Property and Veterans Park.
The committee is also planning to look into connecting Hingham Square with the Inner Harbor and is continuing to try to bring a snack shop to the Bath House.
Rabuffo said there were many issues on the table, including fixing Whitney Wharf and the beach erosion, and the committee is continuing to work on those issues while the idea of a pedestrian walkway goes through the town’s processes.
“They are putting a lot of these out for comment. Its an inexact science, but they are trying to make it more exact. We’re still trying to find out how this is supposed to work,” Rabuffo said.
In the past, the Committee has championed a geese-control management program, zoning changing for non-conforming lots along the waterfront, and permitting accessory use snack shops on both public and private parcels.
This would be the logical next step, Perrault said.
"People are fascinated by water. …it's that whole idea of walking along a water area…it’s a simple thing but people like to do it. So I think this is a start to doing that. Our goal is to get more people down there than the people who just go boating. The idea is to get more people to come down but to do that we have to have better things for them to do there," he said.