For years the city of Two Harbors has been considering putting some sort of marina in or near Agate Bay. Recently, that idea has been brought to life by SmithGroupJJR with its preliminary design of the transient dock. Though the city is closer than it ever has been to making this dock project a reality, its councilors should give this project careful and thoughtful consideration before deciding to move forward with it.
If the city decides to move forward with this dock project, there is a potential for bringing even more people through downtown than the 500,000 that already come through to visit the breakwall each year. Whether locals like them or not, tourists are the bread and butter of Two Harbors, and without them, there is no telling what this town would look like. And visitors to this area want to be able to see and visit Lake Superior, but right now Two Harbors has a waterfront that is not user friendly to anyone.
The question the Two Harbors City Council has to ask is, is this the best first step to revitalizing the the waterfront downtown? Currently there is barbed-wire fence around a part of the Department of Natural Resources waterfront property due to contaminants and unsafe conditions. Should the city work with the DNR to get that accessible to the public before they build a dock on the water? Or are there more pressing matters throughout the city that need to be dealt with before the city even thinks about the waterfront, such as streets, sidewalks and saving the Edna G.?
At this moment, the city has no guaranteed funding for the dock project. The project is eligible to apply for a Tier II Boating Infrastructure Grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program, but are not guaranteed to receive it. The maximum amount the city would be awarded, if chosen as the winner of this nationally competitive grant, would be $1.5 million. But the downside is that the grant would require a 25 percent local match that could come from anywhere, as long as it's not federal funds, and at this point it is unclear where those funds would come from.
There's no doubt that the transient dock will benefit the city in some way, but right now there may be too many unknown variables to move forward with the project. Even if the city does manage to get the funding to build this project, it has been said there is no guarantee that the dock will make enough money to maintain itself. If that is the case, should the city risk having another situation like the golf course for a benefit that is still unknown? Are the taxpayers of Two Harbors willing to burden themselves for the sake of this project?
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