If you’re not a boater, you may think of a marina as simply a parking lot for boats.
But that narrow view minimizes the camaraderie that can develop among the people who love to enjoy the Mississippi River in La Crosse.
It also minimizes the importance that a good marina can have on tourism and the welcome that a community provides to visitors. If you’re a visitor traveling our grand river, the marina can truly be the gateway to La Crosse, the first impression of our community.
It’s important to make a good impression.
La Crosse’s Isle la Plume marina has been beset with everything from bankruptcy to eviction notices in recent weeks, and the city of La Crosse wants to move quickly to invest in longer-term solutions.
With a push from Mayor Tim Kabat, the Common Council has approved a $1.8 million investment to make long-needed improvements at the marina. The city is moving quickly — in part to save money with work during the winter.
We think that’s truly encouraging.
But boaters are concerned about the execution of those improvements, and there’s a good opportunity today to hit the reset button and make sure that work on the marina is well thought out.
La Crosse’s Park Board will host a public hearing on the Isle la Plume plans at 5:30 p.m. today at the Common Council chambers at City Hall.
We think it’s a great opportunity to truly listen to the concerns of the people who spend the most time at the marina.
La Crosse has made neighborhood development a priority in recent years, and it’s important to keep in mind that the marina at Isle la Plume is a neighborhood, too.
Consider that the La Crosse Boat Harbor Neighborhood has a Neighborhood Watch and Neighborhood Night Out with area law enforcement, in addition to other neighborly activities.
So when something happens to shake up the neighborhood, it’s easy to understand why folks get up in arms.
With all the changes, there have been promises made to accommodate the boats that have been using the marina. But something doesn’t add up.
Proposed changes account for 21 slips that would accommodate boats that are 40 feet and longer. But the old harbor configuration had 59 such slips, all of them occupied.
That means 38 boats wouldn’t have a place in the newly configured harbor.
Boaters indicate that they can’t get answers to the discrepancy.
Without getting too deep in the water, consultants have proposed other changes that would, according to boaters, make navigating the boat launch more difficult. The plan also includes no place for gas or pump-outs.
And what about other services that boaters expect in a full-service harbor, such as bathrooms and showers?
The chief question is: What is the city’s long-term vision for the harbor? Is it for a “great harbor,” one that offers a full array of services for both locals and visitors, encouraging boaters to spend time and money in our city? Or is it just to be a “parking lot for boats?”
The city is doing the right thing by investing in improvements to a marina that needs work. But before making the improvements, this is a good time to listen to boaters and answer their questions.
Let’s make sure we get it right.