Dillingham is partnering with a consulting firm to restore the swath of land next to the harbor. With cleanup efforts underway, the stage is set for future projects.
For the first time in almost a decade, Dillingham is updating its waterfront plan around the Bingman Property, which sits near the entrance of town next to the large harbor.
The city is teaming up with the McDowell Group, an Anchorage-based consulting firm, to bring life back to the two-and-a-half acre property at the harbor. The firm visited the city last week to meet with officials and landowners and discuss ideas for the land.
“We've just begun our efforts," said Susan Bell, the head of the project for the McDowell group. "To understand where community priorities and needs are, as it relates to the development of the waterfront, we recognize it’s so critical to both the economy and lifestyle in the Dillingham area, as with other coastal communities. But it seems it's especially important there.”
Dillingham city manager Tod Larson said the city wants to add additional sewage and water infrastructure to the property.
“We want to open up a bunch of those lots, lease lots around the harbor get some places for folks to have businesses," he said. "You know, fishing-centric. It’s a long term plan we’re just getting it started. It’s pretty exciting to talk about, ‘Hey, we could get some utilities here and let people have some business opportunities so people can make some money.’”
But cleanup is the first step. Piles of steel, old engine blocks and lumber are scattered throughout the property, and it has a history of fires – one ignited earlier this summer. Larson said the process could take at least a year to complete.
“It’s deceptive how much is there, it’s quite a bit," he said. "There’s some areas with hazardous materials – oil, there’s a lot of oil – so we’ve got some clean up to do.”
While commercial and fishery businesses are generating early interest, Bell said the need for public access to the harbor is paramount to the community.
“Again in terms of, not only is it a commercial asset, it’s beautiful and people have a strong connection," she said. "So, we recognize that’s something people want to preserve and possibly enhance.”
Bell expects the McDowell Group to finish their draft proposal by the end of August. Once fishing and hunting slows down, the firm plans to return to Dillingham this fall.
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