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DECATUR — The long-planned transformation of Lake Decatur’s shoreline will likely break ground this month, following a vote Wednesday by the Decatur Park District Board of Commissioners.

The board awarded a $1.4 million bid to Otto Baum Co. Inc. to construct a new promenade, boardwalk and two docks in front of the Beach House restaurant. The promenade covers about 280 feet and would offer a preview of what officials plan for the larger, roughly 750-foot section of waterfront.

“This is really the first phase of the big promenade. It’s literally the permanent thing that we’re going to have forever, and here it goes,” said Greg Weykamp, a consultant who is heavily involved with the lakefront development.

With the two new docks, officials also hope to bring more certainty to boat owners who obtain their boat slips from the park district and city. Many have raised questions about the fate of their docks and boat clubs at public meetings and elsewhere, with some residents saying they were not comfortable with paying higher fees for improvements they had not seen.

The fixed docks, constructed of Trex decking, could accommodate about 35 boat slips and eight temporary parking spots for boats.

Weykamp said he was working with the city and park district on a transition plan to determine who could lease space on the newly created docks and, in the future, which governmental body might manage all the hundreds of Nelson Park-area docks. He said the current plans would not displace any boat owners.

“There’s going to be one marina system, and it will be run probably by the park district or possibly by the city, but there’ll be one system,” Weykamp said. “... Right now, everybody’s a tenant of the city or the park district. Some of the tenants of the city build their own docks. The future is, nobody builds their own docks. One entity builds, owns and operates all the docks.”

City Manager Ryan McCrady said officials will be working out who is in charge of what during the next year.

“Potentially, it could be either of us or a third-party operator (that manages the docks). … That’s, in my mind, not been decided in finality, but that’s certainly one proposal that’s out there,” McCrady said.

The Decatur City Council would take up the issue before significant changes in management or appearance would come to the city-owned docks.

The council approved a $100 fee increase last month for boat slips in the Nelson Park area, but McCrady dropped proposals for increases in subsequent years after boat owners objected. Some officials have indicated they thought more residents might support fee hikes after this summer’s project demonstrated how nice the new docks could be.

Weykamp said the lakefront needs more consistency, and many docks do not meet various government codes and standards that might have evolved after they were built.

“I recognize that it’s frustrating for the boaters, but the key thing is, we have to deliver a higher quality product that’s worth the dollars,” Weykamp said, referring to the possibility of fee increases in coming years. “… We’re well within realistic ranges for the marina market here. Even as there are folks who find that to be unattainable for them, and that’s an unfortunate part of it, but at the same time, you can’t have everything for everybody all the time.”

In other business, the park district board elected Chris Riley as its new president and Jack Kenny as vice president. The board also voted to change meeting times from noon to 5:30 p.m., hoping to increase public participation.

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