ROGERS CITY - As Rogers City Marina's season wraps up for the year, the harbor master and city manager are both encouraged by higher-than-expected revenues from a good summer of boating, they said.
After an exceptionally poor season in 2011, more seasonal and transient boaters used the marina and boat ramp, buying more fuel and ice as well, Roger Wenzel, harbor master, said. Good fishing off the shores of Rogers City was a major factor behind the uptick in business.
"(The season) went well. We had a good crew, boating was up and everything, the fishing was up," he said. "It made life a lot easier."
Now, the city's harbor advisory committee is considering projects to be tackled next year, Wenzel said. These include buying new buoys used to mark the harbor channel and renovating an old comfort station.
While numbers for the season aren't finalized, the latest report showed the marina brought in revenues of more than $220,000, City Manager Mark Slown said. It's more revenue than the city was expecting, and more than it has brought in from recent seasons. However, it's not drastically higher than a low of about $180,000.
"It's up from that lower point, but not by a huge amount," he said.
The season was better all through the year, Slown said, adding weather has an effect on how many boaters use the marina.
"If the lake is really rough and winds are high, it really limits what people are going to do for safety's sake," he said.
Slown listed a number of possible factors bringing more business to the marina, including economic improvement in Michigan, the availability of shipwrecks as dive sites and city efforts to promote the marina.
"Honestly, the most likely is just the fishing has been better," he said.
Wenze said anglers on the harbor advisory council were reporting catches of four different kinds of salmon. Catch rates also were good, as few were coming back empty-handed.
Media reports about better fishing, as well as weekly catch reports helped as well, Wenzel said.
New slip rates and a policy change for the marina's three-month rate also helped, Wenzel said. City officials asked the state Department of Natural Resources for a flat rate for boats up to 24 feet in length, a request the department approved. This change helped a lot of the fishermen, whose boats typically fall within this size range.
"We're going to report that to the DNR that it was a really good rate, it helped us out, and hopefully they'll let us continue it next year," he said.
While the city operates the marina, it does so through loans and grants, Wenzel said. This means the DNR has the final say on docking rates approved by the city council.
For the 2013 season, Wenzel and city officials will consider hiring at least one more deckhand to help with various projects, including the renovation of the marina's old comfort station, he said. At Tuesday's meeting, he reported slow progress on the project. The comfort station should be finished by mid-summer.
Wenzel said he also hopes to buy two new buoys lining the harbor channel. There are nine total, and some need new lights or are starting to sink. Currently there are no spares, and the older channel markers could be replaced on a rotating basis.
Marina employees also will need to keep an eye on Lake Huron water levels, which are approaching record lows, Wenzel said. Currently, the marina has about eight feet of water in its channel, just deep enough to handle most of the sail boats that come through the area. If lake levels were to drop further, marina employees might have to turn some boaters away.
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