The Chestertown marina has a new manager – and a new name.
Samantha Branham began working at the town-owned marina April 15. A Centreville native who attended Queen Anne’s County High School, she has lived in Chestertown for about 10 years. She said she has worked in the hospitality industry since about 2011, with previous experience at the Great Oak and Tolchester marinas. She heard of the opening for a marina manager from Mayor Chris Cerino and decided to “become part of the changing waterfront. I’d like to see it thrive – it has a lot of potential,” she said Tuesday morning, in her new office on the Water Street side of the marina property.
Branham said she is looking forward to meeting those who have supported the marina and the many boat owners, visitors, and residents who will be coming through in months to come. She said she’s especially looking forward to those new to the area, some of whom will undoubtedly be attracted by word of the renovations and updates to the marina. She pointed out the broad view of the river from her office window, which overlooks the entire marina. “I love the Eastern Shore,” she said. “It’s an honor to live and work somewhere that people retire to, take their vacations in, and fall in love with.” And she’ll be spending much of her spare time out on the river in her own kayak.
Councilman Marty Stetson spoke enthusiastically about visiting Branham in her office on her first day on the job and being greeted warmly. “I think she’ll be great,” he said.
The marina has undergone extensive upgrades in the past year, with new docks and bulkheads, and a new marina office and store. The docks have been extended 70 feet, adding a number of new deep-water slips. The boat basin has been dredged, eliminating a decade or more of built-up silting. And two of the three docks are now floating docks, making it more convenient for boaters to get on and off their craft, whatever the tide level. Only the Cannon Street dock, where schooner Sultana regularly berths, is at the higher level. Kees de Mooy, the town’s zoning administrator, said that many of the slips at the marina have already been reserved for the town’s major festivals, including Jazz Festival, Downrigging, and the Chestertown Tea Party.
The grade of the marina parking lot has been raised by as much as two feet in order to reduce the frequent flooding that occurred during high tides or rainstorms. And the site of the old marina store has been cleared to create a small plaza that can be used for concerts or other events. Renovations are also taking place at the boat launch, with new floating docks to be installed once the ramp is finished.
Changes are also coming in the former Fish Whistle restaurant, now named the 98 Cannon Riverfront Grill. Closed for renovations after a recent change in ownership, the restaurant is currently aiming for a May 11 opening. Among the expected renovations are an increased outdoor seating area extending along the south end of the building, including a crab deck. Workers were preparing the foundation for the new deck Tuesday morning when the Spy visited the marina.
Also, the Chestertown council, at its April 15 meeting, voted 3 to 2 to rename the town-owned facility “Port of Chestertown Municipal Marina.” Stetson introduced the proposal for renaming, arguing that the new name would recognize the historic status of Chestertown as a port, dating back to Colonial times, and would help turn around negative associations with the marina from before recent renovations. Stetson said the name should be officially changed before the boating season begins to allow for publicity to get underway. Councilmen David Foster and Ellsworth Tolliver supported the proposal.
The opposing votes were cast by Councilwoman Linda Kuiper and Cerino, who described himself as “moderately opposed.” Kuiper said that most people will probably continue to use the old name and that word of mouth will bring people in as they learn of the recent renovations and improvements. “I just like ‘Chestertown Marina,’” she said.
Looking at the recent changes, it’s a good bet a lot of people will like the marina – whatever the name.
Look for a report on the rest of the Chestertown Council meeting in a forthcoming Spy article.