Some boaters concerned about seawall payment policy

Alex Doty • Jun 19, 2017 at 1:00 PM

The summer months bring busy times along the Grand Haven waterfront, with countless boats tied up along its Grand River seawall.

But some of the boaters who tie up to the seawall say they’re upset with a recent move to start collecting fees for overnight stays from them.

“The feeling of the boaters on the seawall is that (the city doesn’t) want the boaters there,” said boater and Grand Haven resident John Lynch.

Lynch noted that during one of the past weekends while he was out boating, city marina staff was sent out to try to collect a fee from the owners of the boats tied to the seawall. Lynch said the marina staff stated it was an old statute that they were trying to enforce, but the employees didn’t have a copy of the statute on hand.

“I understand why they’re trying to do it,” Lynch said. “There’s been three different instances where folks are abusing the privilege.”

Lynch, who has boated in Grand Haven for 25 years, noted that the only time he remembers fees being collected was during Coast Guard Festival weekends.

“It’s interesting because what information the boaters are getting on the seawall and in the (Harbor Board) meeting notes is conflicting,” he said.

In December 2016, the Grand Haven Harbor Board voted 4-0 to recommend that the city implement a seven-days-on, seven-days-off mooring policy along the seawall, with no fees.

“City Council has not taken any further action on this recommendation,” Grand Haven Community Affairs Manager Char Seise said.

City officials say the fee charged to boaters along the seawall isn’t a new ordinance.

“This is not a new fee and has been collected sporadically over the boating season since 2005, and during events like Fourth of July and Coast Guard,” Seise said. “We are just being more consistent in collecting the fees.”

This fee has been a part of the city’s fee structure since fiscal year 2005-06, when it was $5 per night. It was increased to $10 in the city’s following fiscal year.

Seise noted that they have a new staff structure that’s allowing marina employees to do regular monitoring, and they also have the technology to register boaters electronically and easily take payments.

Lynch said he plans to attend the next Harbor Board meeting — set for 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 20, at the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety building — to discuss the issue, and said he would like to see the Harbor Board’s recommendation of December 2016 come to fruition.

“I feel they should do that and post that appropriately,” Lynch said. “Generally, no one’s there for a solid week except those who are abusing the privilege.”

Lynch would also like to see whatever is charged to boaters go toward seawall improvements.

“It’s one thing to have a fee, it’s another thing to not put any money into (the wall),” he said.

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