Have you looked at the Chestertown Marina lately?
There’s a lot of activity going on, and it promises to make the town-owned marina a far more attractive — and functional — facility than it has been for a number of years. The new marina store and interpretive center is taking shape along the Front Street side of the marina, with roof beams and siding installed in just the last few days. Along the riverfront, the old marina building has been demolished, and the former fuel pier has been removed. On Tuesday, workers from High Tide Marine Construction of Ocean City were removing the last pilings from the old dock to prepare the marina basin for dredging.
The new marina store, originally planned as a two-story building, was redesigned as a single-story building when bids for its construction came in at $1.9 million, nearly double the town’s budget. The low bidder, Yerkes Construction, agreed to take on the project and renegotiated the contract at a price of about $1 million less than the original bid. Mayor Chris Cerino said at a council meeting in November that the town had about $480,000 on hand for the marina building. He said plans were to complete the foundation and shell and raise some $500.000 to finish the project. The store replaces an older building which was purchased and moved to Iowa by a Kent County resident who owns farmland in the midwestern state.
The upgrade to the marina, which the town purchased in 2012 for just over $2 million, is being funded almost entirely by state and federal grants. The town council decided to purchase the property to avoid its being acquired by private owners who could convert it to condominiums and restrict public access to the river. The property had come on the market because the previous owner was facing financial difficulties following the Great Recession of 2008.
One of the reasons the town decided to move ahead with building the shell of the marina store is that the issuers of the grants are reluctant to extend more funds until the town has used up the funds it has already received. So getting the building started is a necessary step to getting the funds to complete it, Cerino said.
At the Feb. 5 town council meeting, Councilman Marty Stetson said he was impressed by the new store building. He said the one-story design was better in scale with the existing buildings in the area. He also said he was pleased that the town was saving $ 1 million on the project.
Removal of the old marina store creates an open space that can be used for concerts or other public events. The space will be named “Grassymeade Plaza” in honor of Michael Lawrence of Grassymeade Farm near Comegys’ Bight on Quaker Neck, who donated $100,000 toward the marina upgrades. Also, some $200,000 the town received from Washington College as part of the agreement by which the college obtained the Chestertown Armory, was used to repair the bulkheads.
Removal of the old fuel pier is a preliminary to dredging the basin to a depth a six feet, which will allow larger boats to use the slips along it. The basin has silted up over the years to a depth of no more than two feet in some areas. The ability to dock larger boats in one of the keys to making the marina more attractive to visitors and bringing more tourist trade into Chestertown. Also, the replacement pier will extend an additional 75 feet into the river, compensating for the fact that the current three piers will be replaced by two and providing deeper slips for large boats. The Cannon Street pier, where schooner Sultana and the Echo Hill boats regularly dock, is also scheduled for extension.
In addition to the work currently under way, the town plans to replace bulkheads and walkways along the river side of the property, and to raise the level of the parking lot some two feet to mitigate flooding of the property during high tides and storms. That project will also benefit the Fish Whistle restaurant, which shares the parking lot with the town. The Fish Whistle has announced plans to extend its waterfront porch, including installing a new crab deck, in conjunction with the marina work — adding another attraction for both locals and out-of-town visitors.
Already completed are an upgrade to the boat ramp — now doubled in width — and replacement of the walkways and bulkheads on the downriver side of the marina. The boat basin on the south side of the marina was also dredged early in 2017. New floating finger piers are to be installed along that side of the marina, as well.
Much of the current work is expected to be completed or the start of this year’s boating season.
Photo Gallery – Photography by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell