Cooper River Marina boaters are campaigning to keep its docks open as the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission weighs the future of the facility.
The PRC recently shifted $8 million originally budgeted for marina capital improvements to other projects — an ominous sign to some marina supporters already anxious about a major new container terminal being built just up the river.
PRC Executive Director Tom O'Rourke said the agency is regularly assessing the safety and operation of the marina.
"Today the marina is in good working order," he said. "Obviously, if we do not put money into the marina, it will deteriorate further each day."
The PRC commission followed a recommendation from O'Rourke to reallocate the marina funds.
"The marina has approximately 162 slips and serves a very small part of the population," O'Rourke said in a memo to the commission.
He noted in the memo that the county has more than 380,000 people, and the commission's dollars could be better spent to better serve more residents.
Some of the boaters said closing the North Charleston marina will have a wide-ranging effect.
"It will impact many, many people," said Anne Lange, who lives aboard her boat at the North Charleston docks.
The marina turns a profit, creates tax revenue and boosts the economy, she said, adding that closing the facility would cause a shortage of local marina slips.
Boaters are contacting County Council, the PRC Commission and its staff in support of the marina.
"It's a community here," Lange said.
She noted that the PRC recently spent $4.8 million for a skate park, adding, "I'm not sure how many county residents are going to use that."
The marina is the only county park of its kind, Lange said.
"We are contacting many in the local and visiting boating community and hope for a successful email and internet awareness campaign that will provide the PRC with enough feedback to reconsider any thoughts of closing this important county park," she said in statement on the issue.
Paul Hensarling, another live-aboard boater, echoed her concerns.
"There are not that many slips available in Charleston County," he said. "It puts everybody in kind of a tough situation."
Other local marinas don't have the capacity to provide dock space for the Cooper River Marina boaters if they are displaced, he said.
"Eventually the other marinas will catch up," he added, "but it's going to be a hardship until that happens."
Lange said that the PRC is vastly underestimating the benefits of the marina to the county, local residents and marine businesses. She asked the PRC to seriously explore all options for saving or relocating the marina.
The Navy built the marina in 1991 at the southern tip of its sprawling base and shipyard operation. The marina was acquired by the PRC commission in 2000 from the U.S. Department of the Interior under a federal lands to parks program.
The memo from O'Rourke to the commission says the marina breakwater and water and sewer lines are in poor condition. Shallow water is a problem at low tide because of silting. The electrical system needs continuous maintenance, and concrete docks have lost buoyancy, he said.
"Many of the marina's infrastructure are at the end of their useful life," O'Rourke said in the memo. Replacing the docks and breakwater would cost $6.7 million, while maintenance dredging would cost $1.3 million, he said.
PRC staff will likely address the future of the marina in the next fiscal year starting July 1. Until then, there will not be any changes at the docks, O'Rourke said.
The marina is in a commercial area that has increasing traffic from ships and tugs that will continue to grow as the State Ports Authority proceeds with plans to open a major new container terminal just to the north, he said.
The SPA and the PRC have held meetings to discuss the situation and the future of the recreational boating facility in light of the commercial shipping expansion, O'Rourke said.