Lakeshore boathouse appropriate at site

I am writing to provide public information regarding a community boathouse proposed by the Upper Peninsula Community Rowing Club on behalf of other human-powered watercraft users such as Northern Michigan University crew and people traveling the Hiawatha Water Trail.

The UPCRC was not in existence during the early 1990’s when initial waterfront planning meetings took place and thus could not give voice to the need for a “place on the lake” for human-powered watercraft. However, this need has long been recognized in city planning documents.

The community boathouse proposal is recognized by the city commission as beneficial because it meets a stated need and is budget neutral. The city is not being asked to pay for or maintain this proposed facility. The UPCRC has offered to take on the entire responsibility.

UPCRC has maintained a low key presence in Marquette’s Lower Harbor for ten years. Normally, six to 10 people row at any one time. Rowing involves watercraft 25-60 feet long weighing up to 250 pounds, costing thousands of dollars each.

However, rowing is not an elite sport in Marquette. Here, due to many volunteers, over 300 community members have been introduced to rowing, including youth. Many of our youth have further pursued rowing in college and beyond.

There are launch facilities and two city-supported marinas for private motorized watercraft. Like marinas and sailing slips, boathouses for the sport of rowing must be near the water.

UPCRC has a seasonal agreement with the city to store equipment and launch from an unsecured area near the Hampton Inn. The NMU crew similarly rents space in the Yacht Club’s yard. This results in the orientation of novice collegiate rowers in a very busy area trafficked by much larger watercraft. Human powered watercraft users need a safe and secure place to store equipment and launch in protected water.

It is essential that rowing shells be kept near the water. Imagine being one of 8- to- 10-people carrying a 60-feet-long rowing shell, each carrying around 30- to- 40-pounds of variable pressure; you would want to minimize the distance traveled, avoid steep hills and sharp turns, and would not feel comfortable having to stand and hold the shell while waiting to cross a busy road or trail.

UPCRC considered locations at Presque Isle, the Dead River, Teal Lake and the Lower Harbor. We can only row in protected water with no white caps, so Presque Isle doesn’t work. Space is inadequate on the river.

We cannot row in whitecaps because rowing shells have very low water clearance and cannot withstand large waves. As you can see, this is very different from kayaks or canoes which can endure very rough waters.

After attending many city meetings, UPCRC recognizes the desire of the community to preserve its waterfront for public recreational use. UPCRC is a provider of public recreation. Members pay low dues and volunteer hours of time to teach new people to row every year, providing equipment for community water recreation use.

The city partners with many private organizations to provide public recreation and services, and owns many facilities under the care of private organizations.

Public-private partnerships benefit taxpayers by providing facilities and services that would not otherwise exist due to limited time and resources.

The proposed site is not widely used and located near the power plant. The building is designed to be below-grade and below-ground. It is similar to other below-grade, below-ground buildings between the bike path and Lake Superior that were approved through public process, such as the observation decks at Founder’s Landing and near the U.S. Coast Guard Station.

It is necessary to lock the main building for the security of the boats. The site and beach would be open for public use, including the public observation deck (building roof). The city would continue to own the land, and public access to the water would become more inclusive with the handicapped accessible launch dock we would provide.

Currently there is no view for adjacent undeveloped properties at Founder’s Landing because of vegetation. Our plan is to preserve as many trees as possible and replant where needed so there is a partial public view of the lake.

UPCRC welcomes input in planning something that the community will value for many years to come. UPCRC can be reached at row.marquette@gmail.com. Current plans provided upon inquiry.

Editor’s note: Kelly Drake Woodward is president of the the Upper Peninsula Community Rowing Club.