ALPENA - The amount of traffic at the Alpena Boat Harbor in 2013 dipped slightly from 2012, and a city official said a variety of reasons is to blame
Harbor Master Don Gilmet said there has been a drop in the number of boat owners who rent docks at the harbor, launch permits and transient traffic. He said the city gets $30,000 from Thunder Bay Shores Marine, which allows them to run the marina and care for the smaller facilities connected to it. He said both the city and the marina have seen a drop in boating activity for several years.
"This year was down from 2012 and 2012 was down a bit from 2011 and 2011 was down a bit from 2010, Gilmet said. "It has been a steady decline in the total amount of generated from the harbor. We can accredit that to the walleye not sticking around this year and the decline of the salmon. High gas prices also played a role."
Gilmet said there are 90 seasonal slips where people can leave their boats docked at the harbor, but only 56 boat owners did so last year. He said gas costs kept transient boaters away and water levels kept some larger crafts looking for locations where the water depth could handle their boat's size. The harbor in Alpena was dredged late in the summer and will offer easier access this year.
"Fifteen years ago we had a waiting list and now we are only filling it up a little over half of its capacity," Gilmet said. "This is happening all over on Lake Huron and on Lake Michigan."
Gilmet said another factor involved in the decline in dock rental is the age of boat owners and the type of boats they are purchasing. He said older boaters tend to keep their boat at the harbor, while younger boaters tend to purchase smaller boats that are easier to take from one location to another.
"The younger people aren't buying many 30-foot boats," Gilmet said. "They are getting boats that they can dock one place for a week and another place for a week and not locked into one spot."
The Michigan Waterways Commission has allowed the city to continually drop rates and the harbor's services are promoted over a wide area, but it hasn't been enough to stimulate boating traffic. Glimet said maybe there will be an increase in drivers and recreational boaters who will visit in the future, as more people come to Alpena to take advantage of the Thunder Bay Marine Sanctuary. He said the people who use the harbor, particularly those from out of town, praise it.
"They tell us we have a top-notch harbor. We have a harbor that gets an A-plus for everything we have and offer," Gilmet said. "We aren't getting complaints about that. There are just a lot of factors that are leading to not as many people using their boats, or when they do they are taking them out of the water with them when they leave."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.