- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) - A coalition of Muskegon waterfront property owners, downtown business interests and the city of Muskegon will attempt to link the shoreline and the downtown this boating season.

The age-old issue of how to link activity on Muskegon Lake to the downtown will get a trial run with a series of shoppers’ docks at the city of Muskegon’s Hartshorn Marina, according to The Muskegon Chronicle (https://bit.ly/1gP8lNC ).

Boaters on Muskegon Lake will have the ability to come into Hartshorn Marina and tie up for a few hours to walk the Lakeshore Trail or enjoy the businesses and activities in downtown Muskegon. The city will dedicate a half dozen docks to remain open for temporary tie-up and charge a small fee for the service, City Manager Frank Peterson said.

Hartshorn Marina has 134 large slips and the nearby small-boat basin has another 30 smaller slips. It is a Michigan Waterway Commission harbor of refuge and must keep a number of its slips available for overnight transient boaters, while renting out the majority of the slips on a seasonal basis.

“This gets us connecting downtown with the Lakeshore,” Peterson said. “We need to have a place for boaters to access the downtown and what the community has to offer.”

Connecting boaters and downtown businesses has been a longstanding need, according to Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Larsen. Other Lake Michigan waterfront communities provide access from the water to their central business districts in places such as Saugatuck, Grand Haven, Traverse City and Charlevoix, she said.

The use of Hartshorn Marina is a quick and easy pilot project to run this summer, officials said. It is not directly located in the heart of downtown Muskegon but provides transportation along the Lakeshore Trail or by trolley bus.

Muskegon County Community Development Director Bob Lukens said the Muskegon Area Transit System’s Muskegon Trolley Co. bus service plans on making the main gate at Hartshorn Marina next door to the Muskegon Family YMCA a stop on the downtown trolley route this summer.

The Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau also is exploring a tourist information kiosk at that particular trolley stop, Lukens said.

No one is more thrilled to test a shoppers’ dock program at Hartshorn Marina this summer than Ted Fricano, owner of the nearby Fricano’s Place. The commercial and office building is home to Fricano’s pizza restaurant and an ice cream shop called Pinchtown Market.

“Downtown Muskegon needs public docks,” Fricano said. “We are the Port City and need to be welcoming to boaters.”

One of the most frequent calls during the summer months at Fricano’s Muskegon Lake is about access to the restaurant and ice cream shop by boat, Fricano said. Nothing has been more frustrating than to tell boaters that there is no easy access to the pizza restaurant, he said.

“We need to give people the option to get off the water, come ashore and have dinner,” Fricano said. “You have Hartshorn Marina right next door. I certainly think this is a great thing for my building, but it is for other businesses and the community as well.”

Larsen said that chamber officials have been exploring the shoppers’ dock question for several years with no real good solution without major development costs. Currently, boaters have the option to tie up in the Harbor Towne development to access Docker’s Restaurant and in the Bear Lake Channel to access the Bear Lake Tavern.

The Hartshorn Marina program this summer could lead to other shopping dock solutions along the downtown Muskegon Lake shoreline, she said.

Terrace Point Marina had space in prior summers for transient boaters to tie up for a short period of time. But the marina has become more full and that space is not available at Terrace Point, which is part of the Shoreline Inn and Conference Center and Lake House restaurant development.

Owner Jon Rooks last spring suggested that a platform could be constructed on the outside of the public walkway and breakwall that protects Terrace Point Marina from Muskegon Lake. He estimated that a 300-foot-by-50-foot floating dock system could cost $300,000 to install and suggested it would have to be a community investment.

The Terrace Point dock plan has not progressed but the idea of boater access to downtown Muskegon hasn’t gone away. Officials from the chamber, city and county, along with business owners, have been discussing how to solve the boater-downtown link.

“We all got together in the same room and talked about what we can do,” Fricano said. “It was a beautiful thing seeing all of the groups coming together and working on it.”


Information from: The Muskegon Chronicle, https://www.mlive.com/muskegon

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