$200K mooring fix proposed

Boats may encounter fewer bangs, bumps and bruises if plans by the Grand Haven Harbor Board are slipped into action.
Marie Havenga
Oct 18, 2012

Michael Cramer, chairman of the five-member board, said they're looking at a device that will make mooring along the Grand Haven seawall safer for both boats and boaters.

When seas are rough, boats tied along the wall often surge to and fro, which can make it difficult to keep the protective fenders in place. Even on calm days, the corrugated gaps in the seawall can swallow up fenders and cause the banging.

The prototype device — a series of 15-foot-long frames fronted with wood that would hang from chains — is designed to even out the wall surface. That would alleviate the problem many boats have with their fenders slipping into the corrugated crevices.

Cramer said the units would be less than 3 inches thick and cost about $1,600 per panel. The total cost for the length of the seawall would be $200,000.

There would be gaps for access to existing safety ladders.

City Manager Pat McGinnis said the city budget includes $5,000 for a seawall evaluation — confined to the integrity and longevity of the wall — but no funds are earmarked for even a test model of the safety panels.

City Council has discussed charging boaters for overnight stays along the wall. Although there has been much public comment and concern from boaters worried about future mooring charges, Cramer said the Harbor Board isn't recommending fees at this time.

Cramer said his board would only consider charges if there were major improvements to the wall, such as utility hookups that would make the temporary slippage more like a marina stay.

City Manager Pat McGinnis said the municipality isn't looking to make money off boaters, but he wants to ensure the wall functions positively for the community.

McGinnis said city staff needs time to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the seawall to determine if boats have been damaged there, if the city should encourage or discourage mooring there, and if protective panels have been effective elsewhere.

If mooring along the wall is unsafe, McGinnis said boaters might be wise to rent a slip at the Municipal Marina, in which the city has invested millions of dollars.

 

Cramer said the Harbor Board would like to build and test a protective panel this fall or next spring.

“What we're trying to do right now is come up with an idea for better fendering —something that's not horribly expensive but would allow a range of boat sizes to safely tie up,” he said.

Cramer said he wants to use a few local boaters as guinea pigs to test the device.

“We want to build three 15-foot sections, hang them from the seawall and see what boaters think,” he said.

McGinnis said any tests or permanent scenario would require a green light from City Council and the city's risk management team.

“First, we have to define the problem, then identify if this is the right solution,” he said. “We need a good, solid understanding of what our vision is and where we're going with it.”

McGinnis said he would welcome an open community dialogue about future mooring along the seawall to assist in the decision process.

Boater John Lynch said he is in favor of protective panels along the wall, as long as boaters won't be forced to pay to dock there.

“The biggest issue is, unless you have huge fenders, they fall between the corrugated sections of the wall,” the Grand Haven man said. “I'm in favor of anything that helps that, as long as they're not going to tax the boaters directly for it.”

Amanda Buelow, also of Grand Haven, said she and Lynch moor along the wall nearly every weekend. She said their boat has been damaged from the wave action.

“As long as they put some serious thought into how to do this, I think it would be a really good thing,” Buelow said. “... It gets pretty rough when there's a storm surge out there.”

Buelow said she and many other boaters likely wouldn't visit the seawall as often if there were a charge for docking.

“It brings business to our city,” she said of the current free mooring opportunities. “All of our friends are at different slips in the Grand Haven and Spring Lake area, and we use the seawall as our place to get together.

"I don't want it to turn into a marina — it's not," Buelow continued. "It's the Grand Haven seawall and it's the only place left like that. We tie off and run up and have dinner or go shopping.”
 

Comments

LessThanAmused

I dunno, maybe I'm just being fiscally responsible, but why is it the city's responsibility to protect the boats mooring on the channel wall? It's my understanding that the channel wall is not even the city's property but under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with boats mooring there and I don't really care how long they stay as long as they're not abusing the courtesy. I understand they spend money downtown, but I don't agree that it's the city's problem to protect the boats from possible damage due to waves, storm surges, or whatever. If you're going to park your boat in a place where damage is possible then be a responsible boat owner and bring what's needed to protect your own property. Come prepared. Don't expect someone else to take care of the problem for you for free. It should be up to the owner of the vessel to minimize the risks to their own property as much as possible and not expect the city to save them. I'm sure with a little creative, out-of-the-box thinking that the city fathers could come up with a number of better ways to spend $200,000 + to the betterment of a larger portion of the community than a couple dozen boaters who may or may not even live around here.

Ryan Hunt

In the winter, doesn't the city pay to salt and plow the streets? Why do they do that? Isn't it to keep the roads safer for drivers? I don't see how it is any different. I'm all for wall upgrades as it will continue to bring in boaters from up and down the coast to Grand Haven. I do pay to stay at the city marina a few times a year, but we also tie up from time to time on the wall for the afternoon and frequent the city's businesses while doing so.

LessThanAmused

You don't see how it's any different? Well, let me try and point out a couple substantial differences....1)You're comparing driving cars (a necessary mode of transportation in this day and age for almost everybody) to parking boats (A recreational mode of transportation for a select few at best). 2)The city does not "pay" to salt and plow the streets. The funds needed to plow and salt come from their annual budget which contains sources of revenue that they collect from the citizens over the course of the year. 3) Why do they do that? Well, keeping the roadways safer would be a by-product of the main reason they do it which is to maintain ongoing commerce. You know, like making it possible for people to get to work, get to the stores, get to the doctor or hospital....to keep life moving basically. A better analogy than yours might be comparing snowplowing for cars to dredging the waterways for boats, which I believe is done to make the waterways safer? I'm not sure who does that because I'm not a boat owner. If you want to compare parking boats to parking cars we can discuss that too..........So, why are you against being responsible for your own boat's safety and protection? Why do you expect the city to do for you what you can and should do for yourself? When I take my pop-up camper up north for a weekend or longer I don't pull into the campground and expect to be handed rain suits, bug spray and firewood.....I bring what I'm pretty sure I'm going to need for the duration of my visit. Again, I'm not against boats, boat owners or boaters mooring on the channel wall. I don't own a boat, have never wanted one, but I do like to sit on the pier and watch them go by.....That said, my problem is with the city spending money on projects that benefit a very small number of residents, or non-residents for that matter. I don't think the city has any business spending 200 grand or more on boat bumpers that only a handful of boaters will benefit from. All I'm saying is if you're going to moor your boat along the channel wall, then come prepared with what you need for all conditions. For what a boat costs these days I find it amazing that anyone would park their expensive toy where it could be damaged. I'll bet your insurance agent would agree with me too! Carry on!

Tri-cities realist

Just an FYI, dredging is done primarily for commercial ships, to increase their payloads (coal for electric plant, gravel etc for roads etc, and sand) which lowers the cost of transporting these goods. I haven't investigated the source of funding for dredging but my hunch is that it comes from the Feds, and that the shipping industry pays the tax to fund it. And I agree with your ideas about personal responsibility.

LessThanAmused

Thanks. When I mentioned dredging I was thinking of the last time I was out at Harbor Island. Because the water was so low this year they had a designated pathway mapped out to get from the docks out to the river without running aground. I'd think that was done for safety's sake, but I don't know that they actually dredged a channel there for the pleasure boaters.

Whatever

I am a boater that periodically uses the Grand Haven seawall to tie up. I am also a camper, hicker, cross country skier among other forms of intertainment. My point is that United States is made up of many minorities. Everyone of these that I have listed has in some way been benifitted from the goverment. When I go camping I do not bring a chain saw to make an area for my camper. It has been built by the state. I do not bring a weed wacker to trim out the poison ivy, it has been trimmed out by the state. I do not bring a trash dumpster for my trash, it has been supplied by the state. I do not bring a personal septic tank, pumpouts are normally supplied by the state. I do not bring a shower or flushed toilets, they are supplied by the state. The other actvities I have listed equally have amenities supplied by the state, federal goverment, county, or city. Do not say boaters are a minority that do not deserve the same benefits as campers. If you are comparing prices of boats to campers, I have been on many campers that I could no more afford than a high price boat. The wall is not used by only millionaries. Most of us are people that have to work every day to pay our bills.

LessThanAmused

Good points.....Hasn't the local government already supplied you with a city marina equipped with all the necessary amenities? Wouldn't your boat be safer there than bouncing off the channel wall? Just askin'. If you choose not to make use of the already available resources then you probably should come prepared for a situation with possibly no amenities. It's against the city's own interests to supply you a safe spot for free when just a couple hundred yards up river they're charging slip fees to cover their investment in your comfort.

Whatever

The city marina has 54 slips they rent every weekend. Half of them are reserved months in advance and the other half are first come first serve. Most of the time those are taken by Thursday night.. Some people such as myself are not able to plan ahead very far because of our work schedule. Bottom line is it is almost always impossible to obtain a slip at the marina on the weekend for us who work 6 days a week. When we can we do. Don't assume that because we enjoy the wall that we do not use the marina. Also don't assume that when we use the wall we do not come prepared.

the boaters that come to Grand Haven bring in much income during the summer and if the city feels it is in Grand Haven' s best interest to help the boaters then let them. Just as they had put millions of Dollars cleaning up the boardwalk 30 years ago to increase the foot traffic from the beach to downtown and back.

Tri-cities realist

LTA, I share your thoughts of fiscal responsibility. I'll offer to do it for half the cost. How much can some chain, 2x4's, and plywood cost? $200k seems a bit steep. I'm sure that these prototypes are more elaborate than I'm envisioning, to be able to withstand the conditions. And Ryan, a vast majority (if not all) city residents benefit from plowing and salting, whereas the boaters who tie up to the wall are a small minority. When the city spends money, they should try to benefit the majority. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against the idea, I just question whether the city should pay for it, even though I don't think anyone is suggesting that yet. Perhaps they could sell advertising space on the protective barriers, wouldn't that spruce up the appearance of the sea wall! And that was a joke, I hope nobody runs with that idea, I don't want to be blamed for that.

ReadingNews

This the craziest thing I have ever read about. Poll the boaters and they threaten "Don't charge me a dime more to park my boat or I won't come back. I understand you will be providing protection for my boat that I don't really need. If it costs anything don't charge me!". Then we poll the general population (as well as the Tribune staff) who who really don't own boats and are expected to pay for this. I think they will pay for this, where else would $200k come from? They say "We have to pay for this. The boats must be protected. If we don't protect them who will? The boaters aren't going to pay for this. The boaters shouldn't have to!". Why are we doing this?

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