By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — After more than a decade of delays, construction is slated to start next year on a public boat ramp at the former Bea’s Sandwich Shop site — with the state taking on a greater role in the project.
The boat ramp project will be “jointly managed and maintained” by the city and state Office of Fishing and Boating Access, according to Amy Mahler, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs.
“The final design will be completed this fall with construction planned for spring of 2014,” wrote Mahler in an email.
The Bea’s site is located at 1110 Riverside Drive near the Interstate 93 rotary with Routes 110 and 113.
The city bought the property in January 2003 for $512,000. It offers visitors a picturesque view of the Merrimack River but has been left vacant ever since the popular sandwich shop closed its doors there roughly a decade ago.
All that’s left there now is a parking lot and small monument commemorating Bea’s 1964 opening.
Efforts to redevelop the lot into a riverfront park with a boat ramp go back to former Methuen mayor Sharon Pollard’s administration. Renewed efforts to build a scaled-down ramp faltered last year over funding issues.
Methuen Community Development Director William Buckley said the state has now verbally agreed to provide additional money for the boat ramp in exchange for taking on more control over the design and construction process.
“It’s a win-win for the city,” said Buckley. “They’ve gone from just being a funding source to being a partner. ... We’re finalizing some of the contract work now. They are in the business of building boat ramps.”
Buckley said the state has committed to putting the project out to bid this winter. Though high river levels could bump the start of construction from spring to summer, Buckley said the project is expected to be completed next year.
There are currently no public boat ramps in the city with access to the Merrimack River.
Last year, the city scrapped its initial plans for a full-scale boat ramp suitable for midsize watercraft and instead planned to build a car-top launch facility, or ramp suitable only for canoes, kayaks and other boats transportable atop a vehicle.
With additional funding expected from the state, Buckley said project stakeholders have recommitted to a full-scale ramp.
Buckley said the total project cost is estimated between $400,000 and $500,000. The city still has $200,000 remaining from a $250,000 grant it received in 2008 from the Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game.
Mahler said funding for the project will come from general bond funds, with additional money from the Department of Fish and Game, Office of Fishing and Boating Access.
Buckley said Mayor Stephen Zanni worked closely with the state to identify additional funding sources.
“It’s very encouraging,” said Zanni. “I’m very pleased with that. Once we go out to bid we’re in good shape.”