With a $100,000 federal grant, the city of Beaufort is moving ahead with plans to make the downtown waterfront more accessible for boating residents and visitors.
The grant will help pay for a mooring field and dock improvements, part of the city's efforts to tackle waterfront access to downtown. The long-discussed mooring field would provide a more orderly way to keep boats in the harbor.
A daydock project, pushed largely by a group of downtown merchants, is also being considered to provide more accessible short-term docking for smaller boats. The merchants believe that about $100,000 in grants could be available from the state Department of Natural Resources.
Additional waterfront improvements, ranging from a canoe launch to a place for rowing teams, have been discussed during the past few months, as city officials begin mapping the marina area's future.
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"The overall idea is, how do you make the park more accessible by the water, and the water more accessible by the park?" Mayor Billy Keyserling said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services awarded the Boating Infrastructure Grant, which will go toward the cost of installing transformers to boost power on the dock from 208 to 240 volts, replacing about 12 random anchor sites with about 16 moorings in the harbor, and replacing two rusted electrical disconnect systems.
The grant will cover up to 75 percent of the project's $133,000 budget, Harbormaster Rick Griffin said.
Griffin contracts with the city to run the Downtown Marina and would be in charge of a mooring field. Boat owners can now drop anchor in the harbor, and he has little control over how long their boats stay, how they are anchored and waste disposal.
"What we're mostly concerned about is getting a little control out there," he said.
With a mooring field, which the city is still seeking a permit for, he could better regulate the area. Instead of anchoring for free, however, boat owners would have to pay a fee. Early estimates of mooring fees were $15 to $20 a day or $200 to $300 a month, Griffin said.
The improved electrical service could draw some boaters, he said, because the existing setup is inadequate, especially for large boats heavily equipped with technology.
Work could begin as early as July 1 and continue through December, but Griffin said he does not expect the changes to disrupt the annual Water Festival, scheduled for July 13 through 22.