Work Beginning Soon on West Shore Marina

After a few false starts, a plan to transform a site on Grand Traverse Bay in Michigan into a 62-slip marina is finally moving forward.

The site of the future West Shore Marina is located in Elmwood Township, about a mile from the downtown area of Traverse City. “The location used to be a fueling depot of refinery products that came into the area and were distributed to local gas stations around northern Michigan,” explained Patrick Johnson, the owner/developer of the project. Since it is a brownfield site, the company will have to follow a very specific work plan during the construction of the facility.

Johnson said that he has modified the plans proposed by other developers who had initially planned to build on the site. “In the process of trying to lay out the best marina, we have chosen to remove the earthen pier that was previously used by the fuel people,” he explained. In its place will be two fixed heavy-duty piers that can be mechanically adjusted up and down to follow the seasonal rise and fall of water.

The utilities are run through this heavy main dock structure so that the finger piers can be easily removed before the ice builds up on the bay during the winter. There are a number of marinas in northern Michigan that use this design, according to Johnson.

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The change in the dock design will enable the marina to offer 60 slips rather than the 42 that earlier developers proposed. “We extended one pier a little bit, so that both piers will now end in the same north/south line,” Johnson said.

Since some of the slips on the existing pier were too wide, the development group did some research to make sure the new slips would be the right width to accommodate the largest possible number of 40-foot to 70-foot boats.

“A lot of the marinas around here are for boats 40 feet and down, so we’re trying to cater to people who have larger boats,” Johnson said. “Traverse has become a summertime mecca; there are some really magnificent boats that are coming to the area, and there isn’t much dockage for them.”

The marina will have two piers running east and west. The more northern pier will have slips only on the south side, while the south pier will have docks on both sides. That design will keep the marina within the boundaries of its bottom land lease.

The new marina design was 90 to 95 percent complete in late October 2019, and it had won approval from the local government. Johnson said he expected to get the other necessary approvals from Michigan’s Water Resources Division and from the Army Corps of Engineers soon.

Half of the marina basin will require dredging. Although the development team has spoken to several dock manufacturers, the marina hasn’t yet settled on a contractor or a dock builder. The developer is also transforming an existing, 50-year old residence on the site into a bathhouse facility for members of the new yacht club.

“I’m anticipating permits in December or early January, and if the bay is not frozen at that point, we will begin construction with some of the sheet pile that needs to be driven,” Johnson said. If the winter isn’t too harsh, he hopes to continue work and be open sometime in the spring of 2020.

“We’re very enthused about this project,” Johnson added. “I think the community has accepted it very well, and we’re excited about getting it built.”