A significant change is coming to the scenic Lake Champlain waterfront in Burlington, Vermont.
Work started this week on a new marina that’s aimed at boosting access to the city by boat—something economic development leaders have described as a valuable and growing driver of summer tourism in the city.
“That’s only going to enhance tourism,” predicted Jack Wallace, one of the developers of the Burlington Harbor Marina, which is expected to open in time for the boating season in 2019.
The marina will have 160 boat slips, pump-out facilities, a fuel dock, and more.
The new construction will become a private marina, operating under a long-term lease agreement with the city, which will create new revenues for Burlington in the form of rent, new taxes, and revenue-sharing under an agreement crafted with the Burlington City Council.
“The boating community loves to come to Burlington and enjoy all it has to offer,” Wallace said, describing the appeal of the roughly $7-million project to create the marina and related amenities.
The work has, however, meant a seasonal shutdown of the popular fishing pier on the Burlington waterfront, which has long been a destination for walkers, anglers, and people just looking to relax.
“It is a bummer,” said fisherman Jake Rugg, who had hoped to cast a line into Lake Champlain Wednesday, before he learned the pier is offline for the whole summer as a safety measure during construction. “It puts a little crimp in my plans.”
The developers of the Burlington Harbor Marina have agreed to reserve 40 percent of the new slips for people who want to visit just for a few days—travelers who are called “transient boaters”—and that should alleviate some pressure on Burlington’s city-owned docks.
“We don’t want to turn anyone away, and right now, we’re at capacity most of our weekends,” said Erin Moreau, who manages the waterfront division of the Burlington Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront Department.
Moreau said the city has increasingly become a destination for people who want to moor in the city’s harbor, then walk just a few blocks to downtown restaurants and shopping.
Full-summer slip rentals are also now hard to come by in Burlington, Moreau acknowledged.
“In general, I would say the wait is two to five years, but it does get longer the bigger the boat size,” Moreau told necn.
And while folks like Jake Rugg may be disappointed in a summer without access to the fishing pier, the mayor’s office said long-term, the area will be back, with new public amenities—including restrooms, more parking, and a new park, which are all part of the project.