Workers finish a building that will house showers.
The 160-slip Burlington Harbor Marina is set to open on Saturday, May 25 — six years after it was first proposed.
It will have showers, public bathrooms, and a store, and will add boat slips to a waterfront where they are in short supply. The facility will entice more of the boaters who visit the area to stick around, said Burlington Harbor Marina co-owner and codeveloper Jack Wallace.
"There's a lot of boaters from Canada that cruise the lake," Wallace said at the site on Friday, as a crane lifted sections of floating dock into place.
The Lake Champlain marina is near the U.S. Coast Guard Station and the Burlington fishing pier. About 60 slips will be available for "transient" boaters who want to drop by for a day or a weekend. Of the remaining 100 slips, about 70 are booked for the season, which will run roughly from mid-May to mid-October.
"I think we've got 20 or 30 [still unreserved] which we kind of did on purpose because we knew we were opening in phases," Wallace said.
Jack Wallace, co-owner and codeveloper of Burlington Harbor Marina.
Slips aren't cheap. The smallest, for boats up to 30 feet, cost $4,170 for the season. The largest, for 80-foot boats, cost $11,120. Day rates depend on the size of the boat and run $3 per foot, more on holidays.
The private marina will include two public bathrooms, a ship store where boaters and the public can buy provisions, showers for marina customers, and gas pumps for refueling.
About half the slips will be ready in time for the opening. The rest are expected to be completed by July 4. The ship store, including bathrooms, will be not be finished until mid-July.
Work around the marina has substantially reconfigured the northern stretch of Burlington's waterfront directly in front of the Burlington Water Resources Division building. The old Moran Plant sits to the north. As part of the project, the city will have a new public destination called Water Works Park. The name is a nod to the adjacent public drinking water plant.
The new Water Works Park near the Burlington Harbor Marina
A small city parking lot next to the fishing pier has been turned into park space with benches and walkways. The property that had a small pavilion and picnic area just south of the pier has been taken over by the marina.
A new 68-spot parking area is being constructed east of the Water Resources building. Some spaces will be marina-only parking, and others will be public.
The new park will open this weekend. So will the city fishing pier, which was closed last summer for the marina construction.
A pile of heavy chains sat ready last Friday to help secure a few more sections of a mostly complete floating, pedestrian-accessible breakwater. It's designed to protect the slips and boats inside the perimeter from battering waves that sometimes form on Lake Champlain.
The rectangular breakwater extends far out into the lake — well beyond the fishing pier — and will be open to the public, as dictated by the development agreement between the marina owners and the city. On a sunny but chilly morning, it served up handsome views of Burlington's cityscape to the east and the Adirondacks to the west.
From the new marina, the old stone Burlington breakwater to the south was barely visible. It was mostly underwater because snowpack meltwater and rain had pushed Lake Champlain's level above flood stage, defined as 100 feet. The lake level was at 100.38 feet Monday morning in Burlington, according to the National Weather Service.
Portions of city-owned Perkins Pier are underwater, and only about half of its seasonal slips were open. Some boaters are being temporarily shifted to city slips at the Community Boathouse.
The new private marina breakwater is designed to float atop the surface, anchored to the lake bottom. It hasn't been affected by the high water, and the design means it will be less subject to flood-stage problems, Wallace said.
The marina breakwater takes up significant space in the harbor. It was designed to leave a gap between it and the stone breakwater for ferry boats and other traffic to pass through.
"We left them a 500-foot channel, which was discussed and planned at length," Wallace said.
Plans for a water taxi service that could ferry people around the harbor are not finalized. It looks "pretty promising" that a third-party contractor will operate such a service this season, but the deal has not been inked, Wallace said.
A pile of chains that will help secure the floating breakwater at the Burlington Harbor Marina
Wallace's partners are developer Chuck DesLauriers and Trident Marine Group, a Maryland-based company that operates several marinas on the Chesapeake Bay. Trident will manage the marina.
Meanwhile, the city is finishing work on regrading and utilities on the event lawn at the north end of Waterfront Park. The finish line for this Sunday's Vermont City Marathon has been moved to the great lawn section at the southern end of the park. Other events may also need to be moved. They can't take place on the event lawn until the grass grows in.
“I really can’t throw a date out. It's really weather dependent right now,” said Cindi Wight, director of the Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department. The chilly, soggy spring has made it difficult to finish the project on the original timeline, which called for completion by Memorial Day weekend.
“We have no shortage of water this year,” Wight said. “Now we just need that yellow orb in the sky to appear and give us a hand.”
Workers assemble docks and slips at the Burlington Harbor Marina.