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Sacramento Marina looks to stage a comeback

Boaters at the Sacramento Marina walk on the docks Saturday, which was “national marina day.” The city used the day as a kickoff for what it hopes will be a better season for the Miller Park marina, which underwent significant upgrades in 2008.
Boaters at the Sacramento Marina walk on the docks Saturday, which was “national marina day.” The city used the day as a kickoff for what it hopes will be a better season for the Miller Park marina, which underwent significant upgrades in 2008. aseng@sacbee.com

An event for boating enthusiasts at the Sacramento Marina drew a few hundred people Saturday to Miller Park, part of a larger effort to raise awareness about the landing after a period of decline.

The city’s only public marina, built in 1952 and renovated in 2008, features 475 boat slips that range from $212 to $624 per month depending on boat size and whether the slip is covered. About 73 percent of the slips are in use, said Keith Underwood, marina manager.

Occupancy rates have increased since 2013, when just 45 percent of slips were full compared with 96 percent in 2003, according to figures from the city of Sacramento. After being hard hit by the recession, the marina has lowered its rates and fuel prices in the past year in an attempt to increase revenue, which fell from $1.75 million in 2009 to $1.18 million in 2013.

Times were tough, but they’re slowly getting better, Underwood said. The marina’s staff is gearing up for what it expects to be the best boating season in a decade.

The Saturday morning event was the second of its kind, and brought together current slip users and newcomers to celebrate “national marina day.” A live band jammed, vendors sold street grub, and local entertainment group Pirates of Sacramento fired off cannons while community members sold and swapped new and used boating supplies.

The marina has the good fortune of being less affected by the drought than the area’s lakes, said Underwood, because it draws from the Sacramento River – a larger watershed with more tributaries than the American River, which has been hardest hit by the region’s lack of water.

Sitting 6 feet below the Sacramento River, the marina’s basin has the benefit of receiving water from all of the bodies above it. It is also one of few areas on the Sacramento River classified as riparian habitat, making it a happy home for river otters, muskrats and beavers, Underwood said.

“When your tap water stops, that’s when we’ll no longer have boats in here,” he said. “I feel a little guilty about it, but it is what it is.”

An event for boating enthusiasts at the Sacramento Marina drew a few hundred people Saturday to Miller Park, part of a larger effort to raise awareness about the landing after a period of decline. Marina manager Keith Underwood provides insights a

Still, he said, he’s noticed that public perception about the drought has kept some away from recreational boating. On an operational level, staff has stopped using hoses to spray down boats and docks, and instead uses push brooms wet with river water.

The small market at the fuel dock is newly stocked with snacks, ice cream and a variety of boating supplies, including fish bait, life jackets and spare batteries. Marina staff has been increasing its outreach in the community.

“This event is small, but it’s mighty,” Underwood said. “It’s about getting awareness on the river. Most people don’t even know that we’re here.”

The marina might also be seeing the benefits of the recovering water recreation industry, which also took a hit from the recession as many families gave up luxury amenities such as boats. In California, sales of boats and boating accessories jumped 23 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The recession “was hard on the marina staff and hard on the boaters, but we survived and it’s on the way back now,” said Dennis Cole, 80, who has docked at the marina for the past 25 years.

Jessica Wharton, a midtown resident and boat owner, said she moved her 25-foot Sea Ray from Cliff’s Marina to a Miller Park slip last April for convenience, and because of the lower rates. She pays $285 per month for her spot.

She said she appreciates the cleanliness and community atmosphere at the marina.

“The drought has an impact on my lawn, but not my boating,” she said.

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