Leelanau News and Events

New Master Plan Sketches Out Ambitious Modernization Projects For Suttons Bay Marina

By Craig Manning | March 18, 2024

Replacement docks, more boat slips, new-and-improved restrooms, a parking lot refresh, and the creation of a central marina operations hub: These are a few of the priorities identified in the Village of Suttons Bay’s newly-drafted marina master plan update. That document will get a public hearing tonight (Monday, March 18) during a regular meeting of the Suttons Bay Village Council. If adopted, it will kick off a significant modernization effort at the marina.

In collaboration with Abonmarche Consultants, Inc., a civil engineering firm based in Benton Harbor, Village of Suttons Bay staff have been working for months to develop a new five-year marina master plan. The existing plan was developed in 2012 and implemented in 2014, and has since paved the way for several notable changes at the marina, including a Clean Marina Certification from Michigan Sea Grant in 2014 and numerous ADA accessibility improvements.

The new master plan sketches a road map for future projects at the marina, including four top-priority items that would likely happen soon as part of a Phase 1 project. Lower-priority improvements are also detailed in the plan, but would be completed later “based upon the urgency of each need, potential grant funding opportunities, and upon the availability of local funding shares.”

The top priorities include the creation of a new boater services and public restroom building, the restoration of the marina’s “A-Dock,” a parking lot reconstruction, and “basic calming measures to minimize the impacts of wave conditions” on the marina.

The marina’s existing restroom building, located at the corner of Front Street and Adams Street, includes bath house facilities for slip holders, public restrooms, and maintenance/storage room. The new master plan calls for the replacement and modernization of that building, which was constructed in 1978.

The A-Dock – the name given to the dock sections closest to shore on the north side of the marina – is another priority item identified in the plan. According to draft documents, the dock has longer piers than is typical for public marinas – an “unconventional mooring practice” that “creates challenges with the navigation and mooring at A-Dock.” The plan calls for “updating the dock to meet ADA accessibility standards, reconfiguring the dock to incorporate a more modern dock configuration, and installing future marine utilities.”

The plan also recommends the removal of an old public boat launch ramp to allow for expansion of the A-Dock. The launch in question (pictured) was closed down in 2012 and replaced with a new ramp just north of the marina, on Front Street. The master plan suggests that, “through removal of the launch ramp and dredging the basin to meet adjacent existing depths, the capacity for more and larger slips can be achieved” for A-Dock.

Also due for removal is the marina’s main parking lot. Per the master plan draft, that lot “appears to be reaching the end of its life cycle,” with alligator cracks and potholes plaguing the pavement and repeated flooding problems in recent years “during high water level conditions and major storm events.” The plan calls for “a more resilient parking lot incorporating additional green infrastructure practices…to resist future flooding and treat stormwater runoff.” Specifically, engineers recommend building a new lot “at a higher elevation” and incorporating better drainage and stormwater treatment systems, as well as installing stone placements along the northern edge to separate the lot from the beach and mitigate “the effect of erosion during future high-water events.”

The last Phase 1 priority is the addition of new “basin calming” measures to protect the marina from wave action. Both C-Dock and D-Dock – the dock sections that extend farther out into the water – suffer heavy wave conditions “during even mild wind events.” Those conditions have made some C-Dock and D-Dock slips “undesirable at times and unusable during extreme events.” Proposed solutions include the installation of floating wave attenuators, essentially a type of infrastructure that absorbs or reflects wave energy to keep it out of the marina basin.

Also a high priority for the village – albeit, not one listed among the likely Phase 1 projects – is a consolidation of the marina’s office and gas hut buildings into one centralized location. Right now, the marina has two huts: a small 140-square-foot “west hut” that houses the marina offices and an “east hut” used for fueling. The plan recommends removing both 40-year-old facilitate and replacing them with a single “larger and more modern ADA-compliant structure” that can consolidate operations from both structures.

Lower-priority projects include efforts to modernize the marina’s southernmost “coal dock,” ADA upgrades for the fishier pier in Coal Dock Park, “more permanent” replacements for the portable restrooms located in three of the marina’s parking lots, and better pedestrian connections between the main marina basin and the southern docks.

The Village of Suttons Bay hopes to have an approved plan in hand soon, in order to pursue springtime grant opportunities – potentially starting as soon as next month. Estimated costs for priority projects run from $150,000 to $250,000 for an office and gas hut consolidation to $1,324,000 for the boat launch removal and A-Dock redesign. The master plan recommends the village start by applying for grants from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Waterways Program Grant program, noting that all probable Phase 1 projects would be eligible for funding under that program. Other potential funding sources include the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), and the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust.

A full up-to-date draft of the marina master plan can be reviewed on the Village of Suttons Bay website. Tonight’s meeting starts at 5:30pm at the village offices at 420 North Front Street.

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