Word on the street is that the Saugatuck fire station may move down the street.
The Riverside Avenue firehouse — located between Bridge Square and The Whelk, which looks like it’s been there since horses pulled fire wagons — is being considered for relocation a few yards north, near the VFW.
But — contrary to the fears of some local residents — the new site is not the small Riverside Park.
It’s 427 Riverside Avenue, next door. The town owns that vacant lot.
In fact, says Fire Chief Andrew Kingsbury, the parcel was purchased in the 1970s with the intention of building a new fire station there. Instead, an addition was built at the current site.
Kingsbury would love the Saugatuck firehouse to remain where it is, on the river across from Phase II of the Gault redevelopment. “It’s a real cool place,” he says.
But it’s not deep enough for modern vehicles. Plus, it’s in a flood zone. During Hurricane Sandy, firefighters built a berm to protect generators and equipment. Still, the station suffered $15,000 damage.
The vacant lot at 427 Riverside Avenue.
Kingsbury says the town engineer has looked at the vacant lot at 427 Riverside. However, he notes, “we haven’t really started the process yet.”
That has not stopped area residents from creating a website: “Save Riverside Park.” The site warns of the destruction of “an oasis for Westport residents.”
Presumably that won’t happen if the firehouse is built not at the park, but next door. However, concerns about increased noise and “traffic pollution” would no doubt remain.
The website offers an alternative: Luciano Park.
I’m not so sure. That’s been an important (and green) part of Saugatuck since the turn of the century — the 20th century.
Luciano Park is home to a playground and softball field. It was also the site of the long-running Italian Festival, and a short-lived antiques market.
The website points to Luciano Park’s proximity to I-95 — a frequent destination for fire calls — as one more reason to put the station there. I’d argue that the added distance from Riverside Avenue — especially to the southbound entrance ramp — is negligible.
If all this sounds as if I’m pro-firehouse-at-427 Riverside: I’m not. But I would not want to see it at Luciano Park, either.
What I would like to see is a robust discussion of the future of the Saugatuck fire station. Click “Comments” to add your thoughts. Remember: please use your real, full name. And it would help to add where you live, so we can better understand where you are coming from.