Governor Hogan visits Chestertown marina
Special from the Kent County News
— Mayor Chris Cerino took Gov. Larry Hogan on a half-hour guided tour of the Chestertown Marina on Friday.
A who’s-who of elected officials and community leaders was on hand to greet the governor, including all four Chestertown council members, the entire 36th District delegation to the General Assembly, Kent County Commissioner Bill Short and Sheriff John Price. There were also representatives from Washington College, local business owners and other stakeholders in the community’s economic future, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Chestertown Association and the Greater Chestertown Initiative.
Hogan arrived in front of the waterfront Fish Whistle restaurant shortly after 2 p.m. and commented on the large turnout. “Did you all come here for drinks?” he said.
After exchanging greetings and small talk with various members of the crowd, Hogan accepted a Washington College baseball cap from Thad Moore, interim athletics director at the college.
“It’s a great honor to have Gov. Hogan in Chestertown. (A gubernatorial visit) only happens every couple of years,” Cerino said.
The mayor introduced the various dignitaries in attendance, asking for a show of hands from the local business owners.
Cerino then gave an overview of the revitalization project for the town-owned marina
“The town bought the marina in 2012,” he said, noting that Chestertown has been a port since its founding in 1706. The reason for the acquisition, he said, was to preserve public access to the water and to keep the marina as an economic engine for the community.
“If we pull this off, it will benefit the town and county to the tune of $1.6 to $1.7 million in business annually,” he said.
Local restaurants and shops stand to benefit from visitors to the marina. The nearby Washington College waterfront also will be an attraction, he said, citing the college’s plans for a new boathouse and academic building on the river.
“This won’t be a full-service marina,” Cerino said. “We expect to send people to Rolph’s Wharf and Rock Hall and Betterton.”
Cerino and Hogan then took a casual walk
around the Fish Whistle, with the mayor pointing out areas where renovations are planned. He described the high-tide flooding that has been a regular problem for the marina and the Fish Whistle. He spoke about the public-private partnership between the town and the restaurant to raise the level of the marina property to mitigate the floods.
Walking first to the Cannon Street side of the property, Cerino showed Hogan the Sultana’s dock and the area where the restaurant plans to expand its riverside deck. He told how the town is working with the state Department of Natural Resources to repair the bulkheads. He described the role the marina plays in Sultana‘ s Downrigging Weekend and other riverfront activities that bring in tourists.
The town has applied for grants, including one from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for $1 million, to finance much of the work to revitalize the marina, Cerino said. It has $400,000 in grant funding in hand, he said. Dredging of the boat slips and removal of collapsing finger piers along the west side of the property already have been completed.
Cerino said the marina store is to be demolished and replaced by a modern interpretive center farther from the water, with meeting spaces, showers and laundry, among other amenities. A small plaza for musical performances and other activities will be created in its place, on the south side of the restaurant near the water.
Hogan said he recently visited Havre de Grace, where a similar pocket park is home to festivals and other activities. “That’s how we envision this,” Cerino said. He showed Hogan an artist’s rendering of the revitalized marina. He also pointed out Wilmer Park across the boat basin, and the college lands beyond.
“We’ll do everything we can to help you,” Hogan said.
The governor said it was the second weekend in a row he’s spent on the Eastern Shore, and he looks forward to returning to Chestertown in the near future.
At the end of the visit, Cerino gave the governor a copy of his book of photographs, “Kent County by Water.”
Prior to his arrival in Chestertown, Hogan visited Camp Echo Hill and ate lunch with the campers and staff.
Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino discusses plans for the revitalization of the town-owned marina to Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday afternoon, July 8.