City gets $1 million grant for gateway dock
After two applications and years of work, the City of St. Marys has received a $1.18 million federal grant to help fund the construction of a 42-boat dock at the gateway property off Ready Street.
“We are thrilled to be able to announce that after essentially three and a half years of effort, losing out so closely that last time and now as you can see, only two awards in Georgia and ours is by far the biggest and probably the biggest I’ve ever had in my tenure,” Mayor John Morrissey said Tuesday.
This was the city’s second try at the federal Boating Infrastructure Grant Program (BIG). The first time the city had only applied for permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. This time, the city had received approval on those permits, bringing the project to a “shovel ready” status, city manager John Holman said.
The city’s full award is $1,181,246 with the city matching $608,521 from SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax). Morningstar Marinas on St. Simons Island also received a BIG grant for $442,513.
“It’s all based on all the hard work and team work of everybody getting together to get this through,” Holman said. “And it’s follow through. You have to keep going even if you don’t get it the first year.”
The $1.8 million total will be enough to fund two of the three phases on the dock, which will provide slips and face dock space for 42 boats of various sizes off the city-owned corner lot on Ready Street. Dubbed the intracoastal gateway property, city officials have long worked toward finding a developer to build a small hotel on the site and maintaining perpetual public access through a walkway and dock space. The new U-shaped dock will also have a spot for larger boats, such as a tall ship.
“The community has told us that it would like and needs additional boat slips, and so this has been a project connected with the gateway and the value enhancement to the gateway project,” Morrissey said. “… It opens up a number of opportunities for boaters and possibly programs with all kinds of larger ships, educational ships, tall ships.”
The gateway dock will be open to boaters who want to dock longer than the five hours allowed at the city’s free short-term dock facilities but less than a more long-term dock. Stays will be limited to 14 days and there will be fees to use the dock.
Because the permits are already in hand, the project could be under construction in six to eight months, Holman said. Nothing that requires funding, however, can be done until the grant contract has been received, approved and sent back to the federal government.
But staff and officials can begin talking with the National Park Service about the timing of the construction and which two phases may work best with the park’s needs. The Cumberland Island ferry has been departing from the current gateway dock since Hurricane Irma destroyed its dock and a replacement has not yet been built.
Work is also underway to replace the city-owned Wheeler Street boat ramp that was destroyed in Hurricane Irma. The dock has been redesigned to create more space for different types of vessels, put boats in at a different angle and move the walkway to the side of the ramp to add dock space and make the walkway handicap accessible. The fireworks dock at the park will also be renovated to have a kayak dock, a spot where paddle boarders can get started and more space for short-term boaters.