Ego Alley overhaul includes wider slips

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You’ll never see most of the $9 million the city of Annapolis spent last winter to restore its nautical centerpiece Ego Alley, according to city engineer Harry Sandrouni. “All the money … was buried under the ground.”

You’ll never see most of the $9 million the city of Annapolis spent last winter to restore its nautical centerpiece Ego Alley, according to city engineer Harry Sandrouni. One-inch-thick sheets of steel were driven 40 to 80 feet deep into the muck to create a new bulkhead, he says. “All the money … was buried under the ground.”

Almost all. There are several above-ground features that bring the city’s waterfront into the 21st century, Sandrouni says. Among these items are high-tech parking meters and a passive system to purify parking lot drainage before it washes back into Spa Creek, he says.

The new bulkhead replaces one made of 20-foot timbers that surrounded the city’s waterfront parking lot and SusanCampbellPark.

“Before we did that, prior to the design, I made sure we did a geotechnical study of the type of soil,” Sandrouni says. “Unfortunately, we found out that the soil was so poor and so weak, Susan Campbell [Park] was practically falling and washing away into the creek.

“We thought: We’re tearing down Susan Campbell, we’re tearing down the parking lot, we might as well do something good,” above ground and give, “a small taste,” of the hidden improvements, Sandrouni says.

A low-tech improvement incorporated in the park is a permanent stage made of brick. “In the past, every summer when the Navy Band used to come and play in Susan Campbell, we had to hire somebody to come and install a stage,” the engineer says. “That was a cumbersome and expensive stage to do.” The new stage is built into the boardwalk around the park’s circumference along Spa Creek and Ego Alley.

While the park, before the project, was shaded by mature trees, it is now planned to include several specimens of bald cypress willow oak, says Lisa Grieco, the project manager. The boardwalk itself will be sturdier, made of 2-1/2-inch boards. And the step up to the boardwalk from the brick-paved park will be a uniform 8 inches. Before the renovations, the step could be up to 14 inches because the soil under the park had oozed out into the creek, Sandrouni says.

City harbor master Ulric Dahlgren says the project will keep the same number of slips for transient boats that existed before the work, but the slips will be wider — 10 that are 18 feet wide and another 10 that are 16 feet. The broader slips will accommodate more of the modern powerboats, he says. Dahlgren says he has recommended the city raise slip fees from $2 a foot to $2.50.

For the extra money, visiting yachts would have more shore power available, says Sandrouni. “We have upgraded the electrical capacity and the transformers. We had, in the past, one transformer and now we have four,” capable of supplying the power needed by yachts with air conditioning, washers and dryers. There will also be hookups for cable television, the Internet and phone service, he says.

All of the pilings for the slips were replaced in time for an April 4 reopening of Ego Alley, weeks ahead of schedule. All of the improvements were expected to be completed around May 1.

In the parking lot adjacent to the park and Ego Alley, the same number of spaces were maintained, but the old parking meters for each space were trashed in favor of a “multi-space parking meter system” in which motorists can deposit cash or swipe a credit card, Sandrouni says.

Finally, to control rainwater runoff, three “rain gardens” have been installed in the parking lot near the park. Dahlgren says these drains filter runoff through mulch, gravel and soil before it can wash into Ego Alley and Spa Creek.

One water issue that was not addressed in the project is the occasional flooding at high tide of the macadam approaching the City Dock area, a puddle that the Harbor Master’s office has dubbed LakeLinda, for one of their colleagues, Linda Mowat. “We might have a little bit less flooding,” Dahlgren says. But the sinkhole that is LakeLinda and that was created after the flooding at the tail end of Hurricane Isabel in 2003 is, “outside the current project,” he says.

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