A recently renovated park is looking down at the heel.
A little more than three years ago, Apalachicola used two state grants totaling $400,000 to improve Riverside Park on the waterfront between Avenues D and E. Of this, $56,000 was used to install a central fountain in the park.
Plans for the park were inspired by design ideas suggested by the University of Georgia’s Riverways South committee and submitted to the city in 2008. Riverways’ report stressed the importance of the park to the downtown. “This is Apalachicola’s central park,” read the report. “It is the closest open space to the city’s commercial core.”
At the time, there was controversy over the renovations, which included the fountain as well as installation of planters, benches and picnic tables.
Members of the city’s waterfront committee chosen to review and oversee work on the waterfront, chaired by Harry Arnold, said they did not approve the plan before the fountain and other fixtures were ordered.
Architect Willoughby Marshall, brought in by Mayor Van Johnson to weigh in on the plan, said the design was not in keeping with what the city ought to pursue. Questions were also raised about why the city had not sought bids on installation of the fountain and other fixtures.
Nevertheless, Aquarius of Naples installed the fountain on April 19, 2009, with city grant writer Cindy Giametta supervising the work.
Today, Riverfront Park is in need of maintenance and repairs.
In December 2011, tiles began to fall off the sides and top of the fountain. For a short time, twine was used to secure the ceramic tile that remained, and silicone and mortar were applied to hide cracks and put fallen tiles back in place. Cracks in the fountain’s tile work continue to appear.
On the night of April 11, the fishing boat “God’s Grace” collided with the dock at Riverfront Park, damaging two pilings, knocking one down and breaking the other above water level. Apalachicola Police Chief Bobby Varnes said the boat’s captain, Nathan Peaden, of Milton, agreed to pay the estimated cost of $5,000 to repair the pilings.
Varnes said city officials were attempting to complete the repairs before the Apalachicola Antique and Classic Boat Show on April 28. The pilings remain unrepaired, although part of the damaged material has been removed, with the area festooned with ragged, yellow caution tape.
Varnes said last week the owner of God’s Grace is ready to pay for repairs but that the chief has found it difficult finding a contractor because the job is so small. Varnes said he has approached at least three firms that replace pilings but, so far, none has sent equipment to do the work. He is now negotiating with Reed Hicks of Carrabelle who said he has another job in Apalachicola and will attempt the Riverfront Park repair in two to three weeks when he brings a crew over to tackle the larger job.
“We have the poles,” said Varnes. “If anybody that can do the work and wants to come, we’ll pay them.”
Three months ago, the soil began to erode along the western edge of a section of sidewalk running parallel to the dock. During Tropical Storm Debby, the erosion worsened, and by the end of the summer, the condition of the sidewalk deteriorated to where several large sections have upended and present an obvious safety hazard.
The sidewalk is tilting along the entire waterfront and about half of the walking trail is now surrounded by temporary fencing. The fence prevents the use of benches and trash receptacles purchased and installed in 2009.
Contractor William Poloronis, who originally installed the sidewalk, said the rip rap used to reinforce the river bank had washed away over time. But, nobody was aware of the problem, he said, because the dock, installed after the sidewalk was built, hid the bank.
He said he believed the engineer underestimated wave action at the site. Poloronis said the best fix would be to drive sheet pilings deep along the bank, at a cost of as much as $1,000 a foot. But, a short term repair might be made much more cheaply.
Poloronis said that after inspecting the site, he believes the sidewalk needs to be removed, and a larger support beam and additional riprap needs to be added to reinforce the bank.
“The dock can become part of the walking trail,” he said.
Poloronis said he has not worked out the cost of the interim repair, but estimated it would be much cheaper than sheet piling, which might run around $200,000.
When repairs will be completed is uncertain. Staff in Apalachicola’s city office said damage to the sidewalk is being reviewed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Preble Rish, the city engineer.