‘We are definitely moving in the right direction’: Boaters, Park District officials pleased with talks about marina

Art-Keller-Marina-2

One of the boat slips at Art Keller Marina. | File photo by David Adam

QUINCY — Chris Griggs called it “a dialogue like we’ve never had before, which is very much appreciated.”

A group of local boaters and renters informally met for about 90 minutes with Quincy Park Board commissioners John Frankenhoff and Jeff VanCamp on Tuesday to talk about issues involving boating on the Mississippi River and finding a way to keep Art Keller Marina open past 2023.

Griggs, the unofficial spokesperson for the boaters and renters, characterized the meeting as a “think tank.”

“(The meeting) was finally a culmination of us boaters getting together and running through a list of things that we wanted to see them do, as well as what we would be willing to do to help,” he said Wednesday. “It was nice to sit down with the commissioners and get a little bit of opinion on what they were looking for and kind of figure out what direction everybody’s pulling.

“People were just throwing out ideas, long term and short term. We realize there’s a deficit they’ve got to take care of, and we’ve got to get more renters in and things like that.”

When the Quincy Park Board met Aug. 1 for its annual planning session to provide a road map for upcoming projects, Frankenhoff told local media outlets that commissioners pledged to continue operations only through 2023.

The number of slips bought at the marina has gone from 194 (out of a possible 222) in 2011 to 115 in 2022. A capital needs assessment showed more than $450,000 worth of work is needed during the next 10 years to keep the marina operational. Efforts to find private management to take over the marina have been unsuccessful.

Now, after Tuesday’s meeting, Frankenhoff said, “We are definitely moving in the right direction.”

Also in attendance for the meeting representing the Park District were executive director Rome Frericks, director of parks Matt Higley, director of business services Don Hilgenbrinck and marketing operations director Marcelo Beroiza.

Neither Griggs nor Frankenhoff wanted to talk about specific ideas for the riverfront and marina. However, Griggs said he believes water depth is going to be critical for the future of boating. 

“And that’s something that’s not necessarily in any one person’s control,” Griggs said. “It’s going to take a group effort. One of the boaters’ major concerns is siltation in the marina. Hopefully with the QBAREA (Quincy Bay Area Restoration and Enhancement Association) project, when it takes off, that’ll help a lot of this. Hopefully that will bring a lot of boaters back to Quincy.”

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee gave tentative approval on Aug. 5, 2021, to allocate $33 million to fully fund projects in the Upper Mississippi River Restoration program, including the restoration of Quincy Bay. If Congress passes the spending bills and President Joe Biden signs them, Quincy Bay will be dredged to 10-foot depths.

Frankenhoff said Park District staff members will research some proposals discussed and make a presentation to the Park Board at its Sept. 14 meeting. Another meeting with the boaters is scheduled for Sept. 20.

Griggs says communication between both sides has improved since the Aug. 1 annual planning session.

“Without the communication, nobody really knows what’s going on and what the needs are for both sides,” he said. “There’s going to be a much better relationship between the Park District and the renters, which is wonderful. There are goals that have to be met, but I feel confident we’re going to be able to do that.

“As I sit here and talk today, I feel pretty good about (keeping the marina open past 2023).”

Frankenhoff concurred.

“With this momentum and the meetings we have coming up, it’s definitely possible that the board will commit beyond 2023 by the end of this year,” he said. “What’s it going to take for the other commissioners to agree to that, I guess that’s up to each one of them on what they need to hear. 

“I think the boaters were happy. Nobody is grumbling or frustrated. Now the ball is in the hands of our staff.”

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