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West River Shoreline Trail: State unveils new dock permitting process

Sat, Apr 13th 2019 07:00 am

By Larry Austin

Island Dispatch Editor

State Parks will begin to implement a plan this weekend of seasonal boat dock permitting along the West River Shoreline Trail.

Saying the state is striving for “fair and open access” to the new West River Shoreline Trail, Mark Mistretta, Western District director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation told the Dispatch on Monday the state is beginning a process this weekend of permit- ting up to 50 temporary docks along the water.

The trail, an eight-mile stretch connecting Beaver Island and Buckhorn parks, was once home to the West River Parkway. The conversion of the parkway to the trail was widely opposed by residents along West River.

“During the design process, there were a few questions about what’s going to become of the docks out there,” said Mistretta, who took over as Western District director from the retired Mark Thomas after the trail was nearly complete. “We put that to the side as we focused on the design and the implementation of the trail. And now that the trail’s complete, it was time to focus on some of these other matters, and the dock being one of them.”

Before the state took the land in the 1950s, some private citizens had docks on the river, with the state since then allowing “up to 16 permits,” Mistretta said, but many more docks were established on the river by people “without our permission.”

“There’s no state dock work along there at all. So that’s private,” Mistretta said. “Some were put in before it was state-owned land, but many have been put in since it’s been state-owned land.” “With the parkway being there, it was such limited access that we did permit a few of the docks for the homeowners along West River and for those who had docks prior to it being state land.”

“We have a process now, a more formal organized process for any of the users along the trail and any of the older dock enthusiasts,” Mistretta said.

“We’re going to permit up to 50 dock holders,” Mistretta said. “First come, first served basis. And the permit will include docks and access steps to the docks only.”

Any permitted docks going forward must “conform to design standards for health and safety reasons and there will be an access gate in front of them and access stairs,” Mistretta said.

What Mistretta called “upland structures” are coming out.

“We are not permitting or allowing upland structures,” Mistretta said, which for the layperson may mean any kind of decks, patios, fire pits or tiki bars that private citizens had built on state land.

Angela Berti of State Parks used the word “enclave” to describe what some people had established on state property along the river.

“We’ve seen it all,” Mistretta said.

“There will be no other upland structures permitted or allowed, whether you’re a boater or a person interested in just having a deck or patio down there,” he said. “It is public green space. The trail’s open, there’s going to be increased usership, and because of better access to the public, we need to make sure it’s accessed to the public.”

There would be no ‘Private Property’ signs. “Those will be quickly removed,” he said.

Permit seekers will also need to apply for insurance and an Army Corps of Engineers permit.

“Part of our mission is – and we’re always in this balancing act – to be sensitive to the natural resources, protect, restore, enhance the natural environment, but also our wish is to provide recreational opportunities. And we thought long and hard about this,” Mistretta explained. “And we really came to the conclusion that many of these docks were here and some before it was state land. So we thought that with the improved access, we should be more vigilant about it, but not to eliminate it.”

“But we have to control it. We can’t allow 100, 150 docks along there. We felt 50 was fair and reasonable.”


•Apply for a dock permit in person at the Beaver Island State Park office, located at 2136 West Oakfield Road. State parks will begin issuing the permits at 9 a.m. April 13. The office will be open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.

•Permit applications and further information are available at the Beaver Island State Park office or online at www.parks.ca.gov.

•Permit applications will be accepted until 50 permits have been issued, but no later than close of business on May 1.

•Insurance and a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers are required to construct a temporary seasonal dock. A dock permit from will not be final until applicants have presented evidence of insurance and in an Army Corps permit at the Beaver Island State Park office.

•Upland structures and unpermitted docs are prohibited. Any existing Upland structures or unpermitted docks will be subject to removal and disposal. All permitted docks and access to docks must be completely removed from state property by Nov. 1 or they will be removed and disposed of by State Parks.

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