Rowing club plans boathouse

MARQUETTE – The local passive recreation community got a boost Monday with the Marquette City Commission paving the way for a boathouse at Founders Landing for the Upper Peninsula Community Rowing Club.

The commission voted 6-1 to direct City Attorney Ronald Keefe to prepare a license for the club to construct a boathouse, which it will fund and maintain. Details of that license agreement would have to be brought back to the commission at a later date.

Kelly Drake Woodward, UPCRC president, said the boathouse would be home to the club as well as the Northern Michigan University rowing team. The inside of the building would house club and NMU rowing shells and equipment, plus the facility would provide outside space for non-motorized public boat users and a handicap-accessible boat dock.

Woodward stressed the club wants to build a “legacy building,” not a “disposable building.” The boathouse would be a high-quality masonry structure built into a hill, she said.

The project isn’t cheap.

“We’re anticipating around $600,000,” Woodward said before the commission meeting. “”We do have professional fundraisers on our club who assure us we can do this.”

City staff estimated the annual maintenance cost at between $12,000 and $24,000.

Woodward told the commission the boathouse would have a “living green roof” to control water runoff and an observation deck similar to the one already at Founders Landing.

“People can sit on top and watch waterfront activities,” she said.

Regarding the limited parking in the vicinity, Woodward said, “I think that you’re not going to see any change in the parking situation from what it’s been for over 10 years.”

Woodward noted the club knows which and how many members will be at the site at a given time, plus its programs allow for carpooling.

She also told the commission nothing will change at the beach area. Commissioner Don Ryan had expressed concern about that aspect of the project, saying it’s important the beach be accessible to the public.

However, Ryan spoke in favor of the boathouse, as did Mayor Pro Tem Fred Stonehouse.

“I like the idea it’s being done at no cost to the city,” Stonehouse said. “I think that’s critical.”

Police Chief Mike Angeli noted the boathouse needs to be secured.

“Otherwise, it’s going to be a mess, people coming and going,” Angeli said.

Commissioner Sara Cambensy was the lone commissioner to vote against the city moving toward allowing the boathouse.

Debi Cook, a UPCRC member, said the club’s capital campaign is expected to take three years.

“We’ll make it work,” Woodward said.

Although he acknowledged public access and security are important details, Mayor Robert Niemi said the boathouse will enhance the waterfront.

Although the boathouse will provide infrastructure the UPCRC wants, there might be other benefits as well.