By Maddy Vitale
For a small town, Somers Point has a surprisingly broad array of attractions. It has a picturesque bay, the historic Somers Mansion, the Gateway Theater, boutique-style shopping and landmark restaurants.
What the city doesn’t have is its own marina. That will soon change. The city’s plan to offer its residents and vacationers a public marina at the end of Higbee Avenue has been in the works for years.
But just last month the city announced that it secured approvals to construct a marina complete with 22 transient boat slips, two of them to be used for a tour boat and emergency vessel.
Greg Sykora, chairman of the city’s Economic Development Advisory Commission, explained Friday that there will be demolition of an existing building and dredging will follow. The work will begin in November, however, instead of the original start date of Oct. 1.
“The project is just postponed for a few weeks,” Sykora said. “Hopefully next week they (the federal government) will release the funds and work will start by Nov. 1 or 2.”
Various grants were secured to finance the marina. A $550,000 grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation will help fund the needed dredging, officials said.
A $1.45 million National Boating Infrastructure Grant will be used to build the marina. Rutala Associates, a local planning firm, secured the grants on behalf of the city.
The plan is to have the marina ready by Bayfest, a big spring celebration in Somers Point held in April, with finishing touches by the summer of 2019.
Sykora detailed some of the specifics of the project. He noted that an architectural rendering will be available when construction gets under way, giving the public a glimpse of what it will look like when completed.
“There will be 20 boat slips for the public that are first come, first served. If someone wants to use it for a weekend they can. There will also be an emergency vehicle and water taxi,” he said.
He said a future objective is to create an app to link into the marina and allow boaters to select their slip.
“You could put your boat in the water and everything would be automated,” Sykora added of the feature using the app.
Another amenity of the marina would be a weather station. People could log on to the city’s website www.somerspointgov.org to see the conditions.
Mayor Jack Glasser said the new marina would be a continuation of enhancements to the city’s bayfront, which include the renovation of the Gateway Theater.
But before a new marina will be constructed, a building utilized by the fishing charter business, Duke of Fluke, will have to be torn down.
Sykora said Duke of Fluke will relocate nearby and the existing ramps will be torn down. In its place, will be the marina with a new stairway. A park will also be installed at the end of the street.
The marina area will then be dredged. Sykora said the dredge spoils will be taken to a disposal site off Route 559. Workers will dig up phragmites in that area and create a trench that is about five feet wide and one or two feet deep. Once the spoils are deposited, soil will create an overlay and grasses will be planted.
“The plan is to give out a contract for dredging and demolition of the marina,” Sykora said. “The contract for construction of the marina will come back by Nov. 2 and we will award contracts at that time for the construction.”
City Council approved a contract last month for Wickberg Marina Contracting Inc. of Belford, N.J., to complete the first phase of the construction.