Diners, drinkers and dancers may think downtown St. Petersburg has a lot to offer, if they walk in or drive in. But boaters are frustrated.
"We've got the most to offer but we can't offer it because of the prevailing east winds that we get quite often in Tampa Bay," Kevin Carlan told FOX 13 News. "People come in and have had bad experiences, where they've had two or three foot seas running through the basins. And they're trying to sleep on a mooring and get seasick, and the boat's getting torn up."
Carlan is vice chairman of a group called the Tampa Bay Marine Industry Region Waterfront Committee. It is now publicly pushing for a system of large breakwaters that would shield the downtown waterfront from storm surges and boats from those far more frequent unfriendly easterlies.
"We would like to tie all three basins together," Carlan said, referring to the Vinoy Bason, the center Basin containing the St. Petersburg Marina, and the Port of St. Petersburg. "That way for the water taxis and whatever, you have one complete waterfront you could go to."
Carlan estimated it would cost $60,000 to $70,000 to study how such a system would work. Building it could costs tens of millions of dollars.
The group is trying to influence a downtown waterfront master plan now being developed by the city. It has no position on the St. Petersburg Pier, other than to point out that whatever form the next Pier takes, it would also benefit from breakwaters.
In the meantime, the city is pursuing a state grant for a minor fix: More transient boat slips. Right now there are only ten "courtesy docks" in a corner of the city marina that is difficult to find.
The grant application will point to a location just inside a small jetty guarding the marina basin.
"We think this is a great location," marina manager Walt Miller said. "You have access to the Pier, access to the downtown, you come right in the jetty, there's no mystery, they're right there in front of you easy to find."
And yes, next to the jetty works.
"With the breakwater right here and the nice little corner we're in, it's pretty protected in most environments of weather regardless of where the wind and waves come," Miller said.
Approving the state grant application is on this week's city council agenda. The $1 million project would provide dockage for 20 to 30 transient boats.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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