Clearwater Plans Marina Improvement Project

The City of Clearwater, Florida, is in the beginning of a $15 million project that will see a complete makeover of its marina.

Over the past decade, the City of Clearwater, Florida, has become a tourist destination. “For the third year in a row, it’s the number one beach in the country, so it’s been quite busy here with tourists,” said Ed Chesney, head of the marine and aviation department for the city.

But the 200-slip city-owned marina doesn’t reflect that status. “Our marina was a sleepy little marina when it was built in the 1950s,” Chesney said. It was rebuilt in the 1970s with a fixed wooden dock system, and since that time has been added onto and changed without any thoughts to its long-term usage.

For example, the slips were initially built for sailboats and were too narrow for powerboats. To gain more space for powerboats, the marina turned two slips into one. “That means we have a lot of wasted space,” Chesney said. “Our plans are to completely redo the marina to take advantage of that wasted space.”

City leaders approved the marina renovation for its five-year capital improvement program this spring. That will provide money for the initial planning phases, including depth surveys and physical surveys. The city will also have to determine how many slips it can build and what sizes those slips should be.

“We’re not Fort Lauderdale with the megayachts, and I don’t think that we ever will be, but we do have a lot of people calling for 70-foot plus slips, and we just don’t have them. We have to turn people down all the time because they are just too big for us,” Chesney said. “But when we look at boat registrations for Pinellas County, most boats are in the 30- to 45-foot range, so that’s where our market is.”

Since the city owns all the bottom lands at the marina, it will not have to deal with the state for submerged land leases. “We will be able to maximize our footprint on the lands that we control,” Chesney said.

In addition to recreational boats, the marina has dockage for the public ferry service, for a large fishing fleet and for ship tour boats. Chesney said he hopes to apply for grants to build a ferry landing area and also a transient day dock for the marina.

Chesney said that he is working this summer with the city’s marine engineering group on some initial slip designs, but he expects that it will be two years before Clearwater is ready to send out bids to actually start the construction work.