While still theoretical, expanding and improving the downtown Beaufort day dock could be a key part in attracting the high-income tourists merchants say they want, Redevelopment Commission member Alan Dechovitz said Thursday night.
"If we create a place that attracts more such people to the area, they will come visit more frequently," he said during the regular monthly meeting of the commission.
It's another potential benefit of a proposal that city officials and business owners have been working on to improve access between downtown and the Beaufort River.
Dechovitz presented a variety of options for the day dock facilities.
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The Redevelopment Commission's recommendation is for the seawall structure or a combination of the locations.
The day dock could also be used for dinghies to ferry people to boats in an expanded mooring field the city is considering, Dechovitz said.
He said harbormaster Rick Griffin favors expansion of the existing dock, while downtown merchants prefer building along the seawall.
The day dock idea has been batted around in the past. Originally, the plan was to add a 250-foot day dock and some type of water sports building to accompany it.
After speaking to local water and boating groups, architects, business owners and downtown organizations, Dechovitz's presentation Thursday night outlined a more ambitious and specific plan.
It included not only 250-feet of day dock space, but also a designated water sports/paddle boat dry dock storage building and an additional 40 to 80 feet of low-floating dock better suited for kayaks and canoes.
The Beaufort Rowing Club has offered to donate the low-floating dock, he said. The rowing club has also offered to pay $10,000 toward the annual costs of the water sports center, Dechovitz said.
The dry dock could cost about $250,000 and the building, which would be paid for and operated by a private company, would cost up to $300,000. The city could consider giving such a company land as an incentive, Dechovitz said.
Mayor Billy Keyserling said the state legislature has agreed to "set aside" $27,000 in state Department of Natural Resources grant money for the project. He said DNR would also help Beaufort win up to three times that amount in federal grants.
The Redevelopment Commission is also recommending City Council consider a rowing club offer to host a competition in the fall. The competition would serve as a "test" to demonstrate how practical it would be to launch and land paddle boats in the current of the Beaufort River, Dechovitz said.
Residents Tommy Logan, Henry C. Chambers and Edie Rodgers had some reservations about building on the seawall. Chambers and Logan proposed building the day dock facilities as close to the marsh on the west side of the marina as possible. Rodgers cautioned officials building on the seawall could have a domino effect.
"The next thing you know you have the whole darn seawall covered up with floating docks and various boats," she said.
The issue will now go to City Council for consideration.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.