The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission should hang onto its Cooper River Marina in North Charleston and invest in upgrades and dredging. After all, the land and the main pier were gifts from the Navy, and the 160-slip marina turned a tidy profit this past fiscal year just as it has for most of the past 25 years.
After backing away from a decommissioning plan in 2017, the PRC is once again weighing its options. They include developing a park on about 25 acres of high ground, which is now used mostly for parking and storage, and phasing out the marina; developing a park and continuing to operate the marina; and turning the management of the marina over to a third party.
The best alternative is to simply make the necessary repairs and continue its operation. The PRC already has at least $8 million set aside for the marina in its capital projects budget. That would nearly cover the long-term costs of replacing the docks and the breakwater entirely — about $6.7 million — as well as the estimated $1.8 million needed for dredging.
The PRC also could likely tap some of the $12 million the State Ports Authority is expected to make available to offset the impact of the nearby Hugh Leatherman shipping terminal. The SPA hasn’t expressed an interest in the property and neither has anyone else as far as we know. Public access to the waterfront is a prized resource, and this property’s main value is as a public marina.
Cooper River Marina is the only public marina with easy access to Charleston Harbor and the ocean, and its rates are lower than competing marinas. Its amenities are few, but it does offer clean restrooms and showers, a ship’s store, guest slips for about a dozen boats and some 400 feet of dock space for larger vessels.
A park would be nice, but who would it serve? The marina is nestled in an industrial area miles from the nearest neighborhood. And the developable waterfront faces the Kinder Morgan petroleum and chemical terminal and a sewage treatment plant across Shipyard Creek.
And if the marina is turning a profit as is — about $345,000 this past fiscal year — and the PRC has already set aside money for capital repairs, why would you want to turn its management over to a third party?
Boaters and anyone else interested in the future of the marina will get their say about the development of a new master plan at a public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday at Military Magnet Academy, 2950 Carner Ave.
The PRC’s master plan, expected to be finalized sometime next year, should be “steady as she goes” — to continue to provide the public with access to an affordable marina. Two summers ago, PRC officials estimated that the marina needed about $4 million in immediate repairs. Commissioners should prioritize that work and get started on it.