MARIETTA - It was four years in the making, but Marietta's new Harmar boat docking facilities finally opened for public use last week.
"Our goal all along was to have it open for the Memorial Day weekend," said city engineer Joe Tucker.
The facilities include nearly 200 feet of dock space, a 38-foot gangway and property access meeting Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Photo by Sam Shawver
Phil Bass of Marietta found a shady spot to fish from the old lock wall along the west side of the Muskingum River Wednesday morning. In the background are the Harmar boat docks that officially opened for public use last week.
"The docks are for daytime use only. You can't rent space or leave a boat there overnight," Tucker said.
Fort Street resident Dean Hoffard's property is just north of the city property where the Harmar docks are located.
"There were boats at the docks all weekend," he said. "On Sunday there were about 12 cars and six motorcycles parked on the street, but I think most of those people were fishing."
At A Glance - The Harmar Docks
Located on Fort Street near the west end of the Harmar Railroad Bridge.
Docks are nearly 200 feet long with a 38-foot gangway.
The facilities were designed to provide accessibility for people with disabilities.
Docking is day-use only. No overnight boat docking is permitted.
Project was 100 percent funded through a $200,000 Cooperative Boating Facility grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Hoffard said people often fish off the old lock wall that stands along the Muskingum River between his home and the new docks.
"I don't see anything wrong with having the new docks, but it's not really built for handicap accessibility because the (gangway) ramp seems pretty steep," he said.
Work on the project, funded 100 percent by a $200,000 Cooperative Boating Facility Grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, began in December 2011.
The grant application was filed in 2008, but the project met with some delays due to issues that included a required underwater evaluation of the area where the docks are to be built and a survey to ensure no endangered mussel species would be impacted by the facilities.
"Contracts for the project were also a little awkward for us...we had three separate contracts," Tucker said. "One was for the concrete work, electrical and lighting, another to have the docks and gangway fabricated, and a third contract to have the pilings installed."
Bob Hill also lives near the docks access location on Fort Street.
"I think it's just a waste of taxpayer money," he said. "City officials say (grants) are free money, but that's not true. Grants are funded from the state and federal taxes we all pay. And this project is something the city would not have chosen to pay for otherwise."
Now that the docks are installed, Tucker said he plans to approach city council about rules for using the facility.
"There may have to be some legislation enacted to address the issues of whether fishing or swimming should be permitted off the docks, and to specify there will be no overnight parking of boats," he said.
Marietta Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, chairs council's lands, buildings and parks committee.
"The city does need some rules for all of its boat docks. There are none now," he said. "If a kid decides to jump off the concrete dock on the Ohio River (just below the city parking lot at the Lafayette Hotel), he could hit the rocks there and be injured. It's a real liability issue for the city."
Noland noted rules are posted for other city recreational facilities, like the skate park at Indian Acres Park, and similar regulations should be posted on city dock space.
"Right now, if someone from the Pittsburgh area pulled their boat into the new docks, there's no way they could tell the facilities are for day use only," he said.
Ron King, who manages the nearby Marietta Harbor docking facilities on the east side of the Muskingum, said those docks were also constructed with funding from Ohio DNR, and use of the facilities is basically governed by the state.
"The state says these docks have to be maintained for public use," he said. "But we can charge for overnight docking here."
Tucker said there are still a few minor punchout items left to complete at the docks, but they would not interfere with use of the facility.
He agrees with Hoffard that the gangway ramp from the river bank to the docks is pretty steep, but said it meets current ADA standards.
"It would be difficult to push a wheelchair up that much of a slope from the docks," Tucker said. "It's a 33 percent slope, but it does meet ADA requirements."
The docks and gangway are designed to rise and fall as the water level changes on the Muskingum River.
"They're designed to float on the river to a 100-year flood level," Tucker said.