By Victoria Gill
Elm Staff Writer
Progress is continuing on the Chestertown Marina. The bare skeleton of a building, the construction of which is led by Mayor Chris Cerino, is now a few million dollars underway, and is expected to be finished by this spring.
The Marina will open for business with public boardwalks for pedestrians to visit the property, new docks, boat ramps, and amenities for visiting boaters, including bathrooms, showers, and laundry facilities.
“After decades of deferred maintenance in the private sector, Chestertown Marina is in urgent need of repair and redevelopment,” Cerino said in a 2015 budget request.
According to Cerino, the Town of Chestertown purchased the Marina in 2012. In 2014, Cerino was elected mayor. Following his election and beginning of the project, the bulk of the work was implemented by Town Manager Bill Ingersoll and Zoning Administrator Kees DeMooy, who helped coordinate construction of the new Marina. During this time he applied for the needed permits and fundraised for the project.
This Marina is a central public point of entry to the Chester River.
“A redeveloped Marina will become an economic engine for the community, as visiting boasters return and patronize the stores, galleries, and restaurants in the Historic District,” Cerino said.
According to Cerino, this includes providing support to existing jobs and creating new employment opportunities on the water, increasing arts, heritage, and eco-tourism to Chestertown and Kent County, and preserving the community’s 310-year-old heritage as a working port.
“These are some of the ways this project serves the Chestertown community and all who visit,” Cerino said.
Chestertown was founded as a Royal Port of Entry to the Chesapeake in 1706. The restoration of the Marina is an important project for preserving the history, culture, and identity of the town.
The Marina, being town-owned, means the protection of preserving the public access to the river.
The Marina flooded multiple times in a week in 2017, which was recorded as the rainiest in the history of Maryland.
The property had been known to share a parking lot with the now closed Fish Whistle, sitting on the Marina property, and is expected to open as both a marina and interpretive center. This will house more knowledge of the natural and cultural heritage of the town.
This project has been funded through a variety of state, federal, and private sources. Some of the funding agencies include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Maryland Heritage Area Authority.
“We have also been incredibly blessed to have private citizens contribute over $1.2 million to the project,” Cerino said.
This past February, Cerino received one of the two leadership awards from Washington College, in part due to his work on the Marina project.
“The relationship between the College and the town of Chestertown and the county of Kent is extremely good right now. He [Cerino] is a very good person, and we need to do whatever we can to make Chestertown a comfortable place for students,” President Kurt Landgraf said.
However, the site itself has apparently been very challenging to work with.
According to Cerino, the property is built on marshland that was filled years ago. This in itself creates obstacles for contractors hitting old debris of logs, blocks of concrete, and rubble.
The original marina was demolished in 2012 after moving ownership since 2008. Cerino and many other Chestertown residents fought to preserve the now town-owned property in order to preserve the public access to the river.
“Now that 90 percent of the improvements have been made, the reaction from the community has been overwhelmingly positive,” Cerino said.
Currently, the project is on phase three of the multiple winter process.
According to Cerino, the first improvements were made in 2016, when work had been done to one of the bulkheads and dredging in the basin near the old boat ramp.
According to 2017 report, more work was done: a new boat ramp was installed, and funds continued to be raised. The major push was in 2018 when the town finally had raised enough money to demolish all of the existing infrastructure. This included docks, walkways, and the old Marina store. In addition, do some more dredging, put in new docks and walkways, raise the grade of the entire property by two feet, add new curbing and pavement, install landscaping, and construct the new Marina headquarters.
“When the College’s new Environmental Center is completed, the Town hopes to link the Marina, Wilmer Park, and the College’s new infrastructure together with a waterfront walk that will be accessible to the public. The will tremendously enhance Chestertown’s waterfront and make it an attraction for residents and visitors alike,” Cerino said.