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Downtown Topics Perspective Winter

Fernandina’s Marina Makeover

The Fernandina Beach Marina and public boat ramp downtown closed to mariners in late November 2018. See photo gallery of marina work underway.

Fernandina Beach Harbor Marina
Fernandina Beach Harbor Marina

The Fernandina Beach Harbor Marina and public boat ramp downtown closed in late November 2018. A long-awaited marina makeover is underway during 2019.

Fernandina Beach Marina Boat Ramp Closed For Repairs on November 23, 2018
Marina Boat Ramp Closed In Nov. 2018

As of this writing (February 2019), if all goes as scheduled, the anticipated marina reopening is possibly by late summer 2019. UPDATE: Delayed, new opening target month is MARCH 2020.

For those who have not had the opportunity to see what’s going on at the riverfront, take a look at photo gallery below. These photos were taken on various dates, capturing scenes of the marina as work is underway.

The south basin boats are gone and the southern wave attenuator (the outer, most western floating dock) was removed. A large crane and barge arrived and sections of docks have been removed.

Photo Gallery

South Basin

For those less familiar, the Southern basin is on the left side of Brett’s Waterway Cafe when approaching the riverfront from the foot of Centre Street.

The work also involves removal of piles that held docks in place plus dredging the excessive silt that has collected since the last time the area was dredged. A crane slowly lifted and removed the piles, one by one. Watching the work provided some perspective of the extent of this job. When the site prep work is completed, marina components will be reconstructed.

Hurricane Matthew

The Fernandina Beach marina has been crippled for more than two years, in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew (October 2016). Fast forward a couple of years through a complex web of issues, beyond what many could have ever imagined. These include government regulations, permitting, plus waiting for FEMA funding approval.  There’s been no shortage of feelings of frustration around  Fernandina. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Hub of Activity

The marine/shipping/shrimping culture has been central to Fernandina’s downtown historic district. It’s the seaport aspect of this town that long ago put Fernandina on the map with its deep port.

A thriving marina has interesting activity with the comings and goings of marina patrons.  Whether fishermen tending boats or pleasure cruisers arriving to refuel. Thousands of mariners each year used to stop at the marina, many coming ashore to enjoy downtown dining at Fernandina’s restaurants, or going shopping.

How much annual boat traffic formerly came through the Fernandina Harbor Marina, before the hurricane damage?  Reportedly around 12,000 boats, a number that dwindled to only hundreds in the years after the hurricane.

$18.9 Million To Fix

Rebuilding the marina area is costly, reported at nearly $19 million. Subtracting FEMA reimbursement, the city’s share to fix the marina and do the maintenance dredging is reported at around $10.6 million. Fernandina’s silt issue, alone, has been an expensive, recurring problem, apart from storm damages. Some of these funds will be allotted for repairs to the northern area of the marina, as well.

Riverfront Sunsets

The marina area docks are also well known as a popular spot to watch a beautiful sunset along the Fernandina riverfront. People used to go down the ramp to walk along the outer floating dock — wave attenuator — for a front row view of the sunset. After the hurricane, the entrance to this attenuator was fenced off, blocking access to the damaged docks. Others just loved wandering this outer dock, checking out the boats or impressive, huge yachts that sometimes stop.

You can bet many people — residents, downtown brick & mortar business owners, boating tour operators, charter fishing captains and transient boaters who used to stop here on their travels — are looking forward to this riverfront revival.

North Basin

Fernandina Marina North Side Docks
Fernandina Marina North Side Docks

Note that Amelia River Cruises’ tour boats continue to operate from the north side of Brett’s Waterway Cafe (pictured above). The Greyfield Inn’s private ferry that transports the inn’s guests to Cumberland Island (the Lucy R. Ferguson), also departs/arrives on the north side of the marina. A bit north of this dock area, a dilapidated waterfront building has been demolished at 101 North Front Street.

No Fuel Since 2016

No fuel has been available for boaters at the downtown marina since the October 2016 hurricane struck.  The fuel station is located in the northern basin. The status of the marina’s northern attenuator remains under review by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

UPDATE:  The city of Fernandina did finally get permission (late March 2019), to go ahead with repairs for the fuel station and northern attenuator. The cost and design is reportedly under review. The job bids are due in early June 2019.

When the project is finally all completed and fuel is flowing once again, the Fernandina Harbor Marina’s revival will surely be celebrated.

Also see the Fernandina Harbor Marina’s “Proposed Basin Configuration” published January 10, 2019 at the city’s website.