ELLSWORTH, Maine — The city’s efforts to install new boat slips at that harbor park marina on the Union River have run into a slight snag that has delayed the project briefly and forced some boat owners to hold off putting their vessels in the water.
City councilors approved the project last fall and contractor J. P. Berzinis had begun installing the new dock and slips to accommodate more boats when he ran into ledge below the water. Although he had installed some of the pilings that would support the dock system, Berzinis was unable to drive the outermost (upriver) pilings into the ledge.
According to Ellsworth harbor master Randy Heckman, the city called in Prock Marine out of Rockland, the closest company with drilling capabilities, to come in and install the final pilings. “The drilling itself goes quickly; they can drill a hole in an hour or two,” Heckman said. “But it takes all day to set up the framework.”
Prock Marine started work this week, but the delay in opening the additional boat slips could be as much as a week to 10 days, Heckman said.
In the meantime, he has allowed some boats to tie up to the city’s main dock temporarily, but other people are having to wait to put their boats in the water. For the most part, Heckman said, boat owners have been understanding, but they are anxious to get their boats in.
The project, which will install 10 slips upriver of the main dock, represents a major expansion for the city’s harbor park marina, according to Heckman.
“This really complements the marina here,” he said. “It’s going to bring more people to Ellsworth and it moves us to the next level of being a real marina.”
Each of the slips will have water and electrical service, a key attraction for boat owners.
The project also will bring in additional revenue to the city. The harbor now has 36 moorings, all filled, and charges $100 apiece for the season. The slips, which all are filled even before they are set up, cost $1,250, which will bring an additional $12,500 into the city coffers.
City Council Chairman Gary Fortier said the improvements on the water will tie in with the expansion of the harbor park on land. The city is constructing a new wastewater treatment plant. That will allow it to close and remove the existing plant, which abuts the park property, once the new facility opens.
The plan, Fortier said, is to expand the park onto the treatment plant property at that time.
The dock project is funded through a $100,000 Small Harbors Improvement Project grant from the Maine Department of Transportation. A separate $35,000 grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection allowed the city to install a sewage pump outstation to serve boats on the river.
According to Heckman, the pump-out station will be another attraction for boaters. There are only a few of those stations in the region, he said. Although the state allows the city to charge a small pump-out fee, Heckman said that likely will be a free service available to boaters during the normal summer operating hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
The new slips have proved a popular addition to the marina. Heckman noted that they all have been spoken for and there is a waiting list for any openings. There is room for further expansion upriver toward the downtown area, he said.
While the marina can’t expand out into the federal channel, the old wastewater treatment plant property provides an area for expansion on the river.
“We can’t block any private property, but the city owns land all the way to the Dead River facility [on Water Street],” he said. “We could expand that far, if need be.”