Boat Harbor

A man works on the docks at the Isle la Plume Marina on Nov. 8.

Erik Daily, La Crosse Tribune

La Crosse city staff are working with Isle La Plume marina slipholders to find alternatives for those who winter their boats in the harbor.

Parks, recreation and forestry superintendent Jay Odegaard said Wednesday that the parks department is working to help boaters find alternative accommodations as the marina’s asset holders remove the docks and the city prepares to construct a new facility in its place.

Boat owners who freeze in at the former La Crosse Municipal Harbor, 1500 Joseph Houska Drive, and about nine people who live aboard houseboats throughout the winter were left scrambling late last week when they received notice to remove their boats from the harbor.

The dock owners, Rupel Lewandowski Holdings LLC, asked the boaters to leave after the city of La Crosse gave them 30 days notice to remove their newly purchased assets from city property, clearing the way for construction of a new marina. The city wants the company to remove the docks and other assets by the end of November so it can get the new docks in by the start of the 2018 boating season.

“It’s a real tough situation,” Odegaard said. “Everybody involved is in a tough situation.”

It’s been difficult to find extra space due to the popularity of boating and limited marina options.

“We have a vibrant boating community, there’s no doubt about that, and that bodes well for us in the long run,” he said.

However, the cooperation among the parties involved has left Odegaard optimistic that solutions can be found.

“Everybody is kind of making the necessary steps to move forward, and I think that’s positive,” he said.

TJ Ullery, one of the people who lives at the marina, was glad to hear from the city and get a respite from some, but not all, of the uncertainty surrounding his winter housing.

“It’s a relief, but there’s a little bit of a sense of hesitation there,” Ullery said.

With the fast-moving changes and amount of uncertainty surrounding the situation, he wasn’t certain whether the city might change its mind.

“My hope is that there is going to be a slip for me come May,” Ullery said.

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat has repeatedly assured slipholders that the city intends to do everything in its power to honor those slip agreements and Odegaard echoed his sentiments Wednesday.

“The city is looking at honoring the slip agreements that were made for the 2018 season,” Odegaard said.

However, with the design not yet finalized, Ullery remains wary.

Odegaard was confident that the city and boaters would work things out as all the parties involved put aside hard feelings to sort out the situation.

“At the end of the day, when we’re all looking back on this once the docks are in and everybody’s got their new homes, we can look at this and think, yeah, we made it through and something very positive is going to come of it,” Odegaard said.

Ullery agreed that the $1.8 million project would be a positive development for the area.

“Overall, I am excited about them building a new marina. That is exciting. I just wish they’d gone about it differently,” Ullery said.

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Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

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