The new state program allows boaters the opportunity to reserve their favorite slips, reserve slips next to another boat if they want to dock together or choose which side they want to tie up.
"This process will mirror reservations in our state park facilities," explained Linnae Dawson, recreational harbor coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "Customers can make reservation decisions based on the length, width and draft of their vessels. We believe this will provide better customer service and save harbor staff time in making slip assignments."
Prior to the switch to the new program, boaters would make a reservation through the state's reservation system, which guarantees the customer a slip at the facility. Upon arrival, boaters are assigned a specific slip by harbor staff.
“As with any new program, it is perfected when it is tested,” Grand Haven Community Affairs Manager Char Seise said. “So, in the upcoming season, I expect there to be some learning curves, but overall (we) anticipate a much smoother process for boaters and staff alike.”
Seise said that with the old system, boaters would come in and their boat didn’t fit the assigned slip size.
“The staff would then have to jockey individual boaters to fit in the proper dock length,” she said. “We have built some reservation parameters into the new system. For example, boaters are not allowed to reserve a large slip for a smaller boat. Boats must now be a minimum of 3 feet smaller than the slip to make a reservation.”
According to Seise, since the DNR sets the rates — which are based on boat size — the city won’t lose revenues by putting smaller boats in the larger slips.
The city, along with several other communities, have worked closely with the DNR and the marina management software developer to tweak the system before it launches in January, Seise said.
“We will want to get feedback from boaters who use the reservation system, especially if they have any complications,” she said. “The (city) marina office opens in mid-May for the season, so any calls prior to that should be directed to me at 842-2550, or firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Depending on the program’s success, the DNR will determine if transitioning all state facilities to a slip-specific reservation system is advantageous to customers.
Other harbors to participate in the program are the William G. Milliken State Harbor in Wayne County, Straits State Harbor in Cheboygan County, Lake St. Clair Marina in Macomb County and St. Clair Boat Harbor in St. Clair County.