By Emily Harris
Chestertown’s waterfront is ready for a face-lift. Artist renderings on the town’s website show a new plan for the public marina that will improve public access to the river and provide a more pleasant view for residents and visitors.
The marina was purchased late in 2012 to promote economic development, conserve public water access for residents and visitors, and maintain the town’s history and identity as a port according to Mayor Chris Cerino. “I don’t have anything against condos but that’s what happens when you have a marginally profitable small marina that needs a ton of structure work,” he said.
Since the marina was purchased, interested parties have discussed the problems that arise on a regular basis along the waterfront. These problems need to be accounted for in the renovation of the marina.
Cerino said that one important part of the planning process was the public meetings that took place in conjunction with the engineering firm McCrone Inc. The focus of the first meeting in May 2014 was the impact of extreme tides and flooding that limit boat traffic in the Chester River. After residents were confronted with these issues, they broke into groups to discuss the various components of the marina renovation. The second meeting that took place in August 2014 was a culmination of that discussion into a plan created by McCrone.
“When I came into office, there were still a lot of design decisions that hadn’t been made or finalized… In a nutshell, we decided to go with a much simpler operation. We decided to keep the boat ramp [and] eliminate the big sheds,” said Cerino.
The idea of a full service marina was still under consideration when the public meetings occurred. Cerino said, “We decided…that basically if that wasn’t working in the private sector and bringing in a ton of revenue, it wasn’t going to work any better with the town running the marina.”
Extreme tides were one of the main problems that needed to be addressed to make the design viable for the local environment.
“The three marina docks will become two floating piers. That’s important because they’ll rise and fall with the tide,” said Cerino. “We also want to extend all three of the docks out another 70 feet out into the deeper water in the river because another big problem is that the whole area is very silted in and needs to be dredged out. It’s an ambitious project, and there’s a lot that needs to be done.”
In addition to the docks, there are plans for a parking lot with 12 spaces for boat trailers, a pocket park, and a waterfront visitor’s center with space for retailers on the ground floor and an open second floor with views of the river. Cerino said the planned landscaping and the building are “improving the aesthetics and the stormwater retention area at the same time.”
The marina store next to the Fish Whistle will likely be replaced with an open plaza that can be used as a public space or rented out for events.
Now that the project has progressed this far, funding is the main focus. A waterway improvement grant has been acquired from Maryland Department of Natural Resources to dredge, and there is another $200,000 grant for bulkhead repairs. There are state programs to fund these types of renovation projects, the US Department of Agriculture offers rural development program funding, and FEMA could assist with hurricane-proofing the facilities. Cerino said the next step would be seeking donations from residents of the town or county.
The artist renderings created by Locust Grove Studios based in Kennedyville can be found on Chestertown’s website at townofchestertown.com.