New Bedford’s Pope’s Island Marina Needs $5.5 Million Replacement
As the debate raged on over the past week or so about the City of New Bedford instituting a pay-to-park program for Marine Park, which has the lot that serves both the Pope’s Island Marina and the Noah’s Place playground, some interesting information has emerged about the state of the facilities at the marina.
The parking program may have been suspended for this upcoming season, but there are still immediate issues at the marina that need to be addressed, and the City wants to have control of the pier in order to address them.
WBSM obtained a copy of the executive summary of the June 2020 routine inspection report of the Pope’s Island Marina, and that inspection led to a recommendation of replacing the current floating dock system at the marina to the tune of $5.5 million.
It was the first inspection of the marina since 2014, and while the report noted that some repairs had been made since then, it also stated that “the float system is in need of continuous repair and replacement of critical modules in order for the marina to be safe and usable.”
“More deficiencies were reported during this inspection report update than the previous inspection, indicating that the floating dock system is continuing to deteriorate even with regular repair and maintenance,” the report stated.
Before we get into the repairs that need to be made, let’s answer some of the questions that have arisen during the discussion about the pay-to-park program.
What Comprises New Bedford’s Pope’s Island Marina?
According to the New Bedford Port Authority, which manages the facility, the Pope’s Island Marina “consists of a timber pile supported fixed pier and tee-head, and a series of six main floating concrete docks with finger floats providing slips for 198 vessels, not including the berths at the end of the floats or along the tee-head.”
It was built in 1992 and has been updated and repaired in 2002, 2006, 2012 and 2021, with other maintenance carried out as needed.
Who Owns Pope’s Island Marina and Where Does the Money Go?
Pope’s Island Marina is owned by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) and managed by the New Bedford Port Authority. According to the Port Authority, the marina pays DCR an annual fee for use of the structure, a fee which began at $45,000 per year and is now up to $47,500 per year.
The Port Authority said there were 172 seasonal customers at the marina for the 2021 season, with the remaining 26 slips “made available for transient customers and marina use.”
The New Bedford Port Authority uses the remaining money from the slip rentals after paying the DCR’s annual fee for maintenance and improvements to the facility.
What Do Boaters Pay for Renting a Slip at Pope’s Island Marina, and What Do They Get?
The Pope’s Island Marina website states that boaters who rent a slip pay $90 per foot with a 30-foot minimum. For that, they are also provided with water and electric service, free pump-out service, “spotless” showers and restrooms, free WiFi and more.
Are Boaters Getting Their Money’s Worth at Pope’s Island Marina?
Boaters in opposition of the pay-to-park program began a change.org petition and stated “we already pay a ridiculous amount of money for subpar amenities, non-working WiFi, (and) no pump-out services, as well as frankly dangerous dock and electrical conditions.”
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, in his weekly appearance on WBSM, agreed that there needs to be upgrades made to the marina, but that the City’s hands are tied because it doesn’t own the pier.
“The building is owned by the City and maintained by the Port Authority. The piers themselves, which I agree are in lousy shape, are owned by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation,” he said. “We have been trying for years to get them to turn it over to the City because it needs to be rebuilt. I totally agree with them on that point, but it’s not our pier.”
What Else Did the Latest Inspection Report Say About Pope’s Island Marina?
“Inspection of the main floats and finger floats indicated extensive deterioration of the concrete modules that make up the concrete floats. Many cracks and spalls were observed on the top of the deck,” it said. “The concrete on the sides of the float was observed to be severely deteriorated. The deteriorated concrete leads to the weakening of the overall structure and listing of the floats.”
“Along the fixed pier, the utility conduits are discontinuous, and the timber cross bracing was in poor condition with much of the lower hardware in critical condition,” the report stated. “The timber wave fence along the tee-head was observed to be in poor condition with many rotted or broken members.”
What Can Be Done About Pope’s Island Marina If It Can’t Be Replaced?
The 2020 report suggested that until the $5.5 replacement can happen, “it is recommended that repairs to critical deteriorated concrete float modules be completed to provide safe operation of the marina until full replacement is completed.” The report estimated the cost of those repairs to be $509,000.
According to the New Bedford Port Authority, those repairs were completed in 2021.