City to investigate marketing marinas for ’14

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 19, 2013

The Parks and Recreation Department is looking to show City Council a comprehensive marketing plan for the under-utilized city boat harbors.

But that plan won’t be presented until October, which means St. Clair Shores still has three months to try to fill empty boat wells behind City Hall and at Blossom Heath for summer 2013.

Opening up the Nine Mile Boat Ramp to non-residents brought in an additional $1,310 this year, said Parks and Recreation Director Greg Esler at a recent City Council meeting. But he said that, despite surveys that show rates for city boat wells very competitive with the area, “we have not put any capital into Lac Sainte Clair … in the last five years.”

He said the city has had an incentive plan in place to attract boaters to the wells and does pro-rate anyone who rents a well after July 15 with a 50 percent discount. In 2012, 17 more wells were rented after that discount took effect. But he cautioned against giving that discount any earlier.

“If you go ahead and say, ‘OK, we’re going to give you half-off right now,’ then we’ll be giving the current boaters a refund (and) people will wait to get that half off” next year, he said, especially if the weather next spring is as chilly as it has been this year.

Nevertheless, he said, the problem is serious enough that he is investigating what can be done to improve the marina at Lac Sainte Clair, possibly by adding docks for personal watercraft.

If the city puts $30,000-$35,000 “into some Jet-ski launch areas, we could recoup our money in two years and get some more interest down there,” Esler said.

Acting City Manager Mike Smith said that as of June 3, the harbor at Lac Sainte Clair was 37.7 percent occupied and the Blossom Heath harbor was 56 percent occupied. In 2012, Esler said Blossom Heath ended up around 68 percent occupied by the end of the season and Lac Sainte Clair was about 49 percent occupied.

“Blossom Heath, I believe it’s going to get there,” to the same level, he said, because of the $200 discount and the $500 incentive for those who bring in new boaters to the harbor.

Councilman Anthony Tiseo questioned why the city does not allow boaters to keep barbeques at their boat wells — something he sees in use at almost every dock in private marinas.

“They try to spend every minute” on their boats, Tiseo said. “That’s one little thing that they all said; they don’t have that home feeling, hang out on their boat.

“It might be something little and petty, but that might be something … people want to do.”

Esler said personal barbeques have never been allowed in the city harbors — where there are grills in the public spaces away from the boat docks — because of the risk of a fire spreading from boat to boat in the close proximity.

City Councilman Peter Rubino said that wasn’t a good enough excuse, pointing to the fact that most other marinas allow the equipment.

“There’d be boats everywhere blowing up if they were that dangerous,” he said. “I think that’s an easy fix to make people happier.”

Esler told City Council members he would be looking into that, and Mayor Kip Walby said he would look for the comprehensive marketing plan at the second City Council meeting in October.