The Chestertown Waterfront Coalition, comprised of representatives from the Kent County Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Chestertown Association, Greater Chestertown Initiative, and the Sultana Education Foundation, is pleased to report that during this year’s Legislative Session Governor Hogan, the State Legislature, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) allocated a total of $1.1 million in new state funding towards the revitalization of the Chestertown Marina. This includes $400,000 from DHCD, $200,000 from DNR’s Waterway Improvement Fund, and, most recently, $500,000 from the State’s Capital Budget. These allocations will augment other grants that the Town has obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities and Rural Development Block Grant Programs, Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, and other state and federal sources, creating a fund of $2.8 million that is immediately available for the project.
While additional funds still need to be raised to implement the entire revitalization plan, the Town is currently engaged in the first phase of work in the Marina basin. These upgrades, collectively known as Phase I, include dredging, bulkhead replacement, installation of a new boat ramp, and construction of a pedestrian walkway. Phase II, which will begin in November 2017, includes completion of the bulkhead replacement, new fixed and floating docks, raising the grade of the property, reconfigured parking areas, and native landscaping. Construction on the Chestertown Waterfront Interpretive Center is anticipated to start this spring, and a design for an entrance park along Water Street will commence later this year. The new Interpretive Center will feature a marina store, public restrooms, showers for transient boaters, retail space, and a second floor for public events featuring sweeping river views and a deck overlooking the waterfront.
These recent developments create tremendous momentum for an important Town initiative that has been six years in the making. In 2012, Mayor Margo Bailey and the Town Council of Chestertown, acting on the recommendation of the Town’s Port Committee co-chaired by Don Cantor and Matthew Tobriner, purchased the Chestertown Marina in an effort to ensure public access to the Town’s waterfront, preserve the ability for boaters to visit the County seat, and continue Chestertown’s 300-year-old history as a working port on the Chester River. Since the Marina’s purchase, scores of devoted Chestertown and Kent County residents have worked to create a vision for a municipal marina that benefits residents and visitors, and serves as a regional economic engine. In the early stages of the project, the Chestertown Revitalization Task Force, chaired by John Moag, set ambitious goals for rehabilitating the entire waterfront from High Street to Radcliffe Creek. In the spring of 2015, hundreds of residents joined Mayor Chris Cerino and the Town Council for two charettes designed to solicit public input and chart a new design for the Marina complex. Finally, officials from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources provided technical advice and grant funding to get the process started.
There are numerous people and organizations who deserve credit for the Town’s successful fundraising efforts in the last legislative session – too many to list here. Among those who deserve particular thanks are Governor Larry Hogan, Senate President Mike Miller, Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth Holt, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton, Secretary of Budget and Management David Brinkley, USDA Rural Utilities and Rural Development Block Grant Programs, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, and the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area. Town staff – particularly Town Manager Bill Ingersoll, Zoning Administrator Kees de Mooy, and Economic Development Coordinator Kay MacIntosh – have worked tirelessly to assist with the town’s advocacy effort and submit grant applications to various funding agencies. Our local elected officials also played an important role, including Senator Stephen Hershey, Delegate Jay Jacobs, the Kent County Commissioners, and the Town Council of Chestertown. Private citizens and local business owners also made their voices heard, especially the over 400 people who wrote and submitted personalized letters of support to State leaders in Annapolis. Central among these were Washington College President Sheila Bair, whose personal efforts were critical. There were also several private donors who funded a lobbyist to work on behalf of the Town of Chestertown to keep the broader effort organized and on track.
Finally, the success of this project depended largely on the tireless efforts of Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino. Mayor Cerino spent many long hours in Annapolis advocating on behalf of the Town, and many more hours on the phone making the Town’s case to whoever would listen. Without Mayor Cerino’s single-mindedness and determination, it is unlikely the Town’s funding requests would have been successful.
Speaking on behalf of all who treasure Chestertown’s waterfront and see the tremendous value in the Marina’s restoration, we eagerly await the results of this exciting and ongoing effort.
The Chestertown Waterfront Coalition Steering Committee
Loretta Lodge, Kent County Chamber of Commerce
Kristen Owen, Downtown Chestertown Association
Lani Seikaly, Greater Chestertown Initiative
Drew McMullen, Sultana Education Foundation