Boaters offer help, Park Board offers feedback on what it wants to see to keep Art Keller Marina open

Darren Smith with boat

Darren Smith stands next to his 36-foot boat docked in Art Keller Marina. Smith spoke during Wednesday's Quincy Park Board meeting about finding ways to help keep the marina open past 2023. | David Adam

QUINCY — Some Quincy Park Board commissioners bristled after board president John Frankenhoff told local media outlets after the Aug. 1 planning session that keeping the Art Keller Marina open after 2023 wasn’t likely “unless something drastic happens.”

However, Frankenhoff’s comment may have unintentionally lit a fire under the Quincy boating community.

Two boaters offered their help in helping keep the marina open, and commissioners explained what they want to see happen that would sway their future votes.

“So for the number of stakeholders, renters and others who aren’t renters, they all did a very good job of communicating and making their point (about the future of the marina) without just griping and complaining and making non-productive comments,” Frankenhoff said about the feedback he’s received during the past 10 days.

“We had some good suggestions and people stepping forward and wanting to help make this better. I applaud the boating community for what they’ve done in the past week, but there’s a lot more work ahead.”

Retired Quincy firefighter Darren Smith, who said he’s been a boater for more than 20 years, visits daily a 36-foot boat he owns that is docked at Art Keller Marina. If the marina closes, he says he has no place to put a boat of that size.

He said a piece of tin flaps next to his dock. A problem with lights on the dock recently was fixed, except now the lights are on 24 hours a day. Smith says he must use a wrench to turn on the water spigot.

“But those are all small things,” he said. “They are things that need to be done down there that are not highly skilled things. I’ve been in contact with a couple people here about me helping down at the marina. I’m still wanting to do that. Give me a chance, or I can sit down and talk to someone, because I do I love being down there.”

The number of slips purchased at the marina has dropped from 194 (out of a possible 222) in 2011 to 118 in 2022. Efforts to find private management to take over the marina have been unsuccessful. However, Smith believes the marina will thrive again once Quincy Bay is restored. The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee gave tentative approval in August 2021 to allocate $33 million to fully fund projects in the Upper Mississippi River Restoration program.

“Not everybody in the Park District taxing body plays golf, but we still have a golf course,” he said. “Not everybody in the taxing body wants to walk trails, but we have an awesome trail system. … I know we are on the river. I think there’s an opportunity for the marina to come back.”

Smith also suggested getting rid of about 50 slips on three docks that are not used. 

“They’re old and need a lot of work,” he said. “Most of the other docks are pretty full.”

Chris Griggs, who said he has been a renter in the marina since 2006, said conversations with commissioners in the past week encouraged him. He said several local boaters and a handful of businesses that cater to the boating community were upset to learn about the possibility of the marina shutting down.

However, Griggs said there are positive signs for boaters, including a replenishing of Hogback Island for the first time in more than a decade and an increase in the number of memberships at the local boat club, yacht club and ski club.

“I’ve learned that the ($23,000) deficit that we need to overcome is not quite as drastic as we heard,” Griggs said. “So I feel confident that marina renters, the Park Board and local river clubs can easily work to overcome the immediate deficit while we look for other long-term solutions to help keep the Art Keller Marina vital for the future.”

At the end of the meeting, Frankenhoff opened the floor to the commissioners to give feedback to voters and “maybe explain their own view on what a ‘drastic change’ might be.”

Nathan Koetters talked about how supporters of the Bill Klingner Trail had fundraisers and events to “get the ball rolling.” 

“For me, that’s what I need to see with the marina,” he said. “Those guys put in a ton of money and a ton of time and a ton of effort where nothing existed, because they wanted to see that be successful. … If we don’t see some sweat and elbow grease and commitment from the boaters, then why are we having the taxpayers subsidize (the marina)?”

Roger Leenerts said he wants to see the downward slope of slip rentals change, and he also wants the community to say the marina is a valuable asset and what boaters can provide.

“I’ve probably had more correspondence and phone calls on this subject than anything else,” Jeff Steinkamp said. “So let’s get some action going here. There are many ways people can help, just like the trail stuff. You know, friends of this, friends of that. We haven’t seen that energy or kind of commitment (from boaters). I believe we’ve got (the boaters’) attention, and that’s good.”

Jeff Van Camp suggested the marina is not up to the standards the Park District has for the rest of its facilities. 

“It’s incumbent upon us to make that work,” he said. “What we’re seeing is not just griping from the voting community, but (they’re not) bringing solutions, as in, ‘These are some action steps that we can take.’”

Patty McGlothlin recalled a May 2021 meeting with boaters “who gave us some constructive things.”

“I’m not sure we followed through on all of those,” she said. “We didn’t keep the ball rolling. We listened, then we kind of stopped. I think we need to maybe make more of an effort to make up committees like we do with the (Lorenzo) Bull House. Maybe we need to have commissioners meet with the boaters once a month.”

Two other speakers — Vicki Dempsey and Carla Gordon — told commissioners they don’t want to see a parcel of undeveloped land in Parker Heights, south of Knapheide Manufacturing, go on the auction block later this year. The proposed sale of the one-acre lot at the north end of the park would not require a ballot initiative because of the size of the land parcel.

An archaeological report showed no significant historic, architectural or archaeological resources were in the surveyed area.

“This is part of one of the original parks of the park system,” Dempsey said. “You spent almost a million dollars to extend the Klingner Trail through Parker Heights, and it is being used extensively by the public. I realize that it may be up the hill and not where people are walking, but it’s part of wildlife and the birds that use it. It’s inappropriate if you don’t get some public opinion.”

Commissioners also:

  • Told Executive Director Rome Frericks to investigate applying for a grant from the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development program, administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. OSLAD grants can provide up to one-half of a project’s funds. The Park District would like to build another inclusive park — similar to the one in Lincoln Park — to the east of the Avenue of Lights baseball field in Wavering Park. The application deadline is Sept. 30.
  • Learned Indian Mounds Pool will close for the year on Sunday. Program director Mike Bruns said the number of swimmers has increased from 10,474 at this time last year to 11,355. Only a few hundred more swimmers in the next four days would give Indian Mounds the highest number of swimmers since more than 11,700 visited in 2012.
  • Learned the number of rounds played to date this year at Westview Golf Course is only 196 behind last year’s pace.
  • Voted to spend $17,260 from excess uncommitted 2022 general obligation bond fund money for design and engineering work and the demolition of the Wavering Park shelter near 39th Street.
  • Voted to keep the fees charged by Westview Golf Course for the Pepsi Little People’s Golf Championships the same in 2023 as they were in 2022. Players were charged $75 for the 18-hole rounds and $51 for the 9-hole rounds during two-day tournament, and they were charged $30 for the Applebee’s Parent-Child event.

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