RACINE — Racine County has secured an $80,000 grant that will allow Belle Harbor Marina to be filled in to make a larger riverside redevelopment site.
The Fund for Lake Michigan, which is bestowing the grant, and local officials announced the grant at a press conference Friday morning at Belle Harbor, 32 Main St.
County officials explained the grant will be used to close the opening in the river wall at Belle Harbor, which will be done this summer and fall. The County expects to use the spoils from the Pershing Park boat launch basin dredging project to fill in the harbor with soil. That will increase the size of Belle Harbor from 3.3 acres of hard surface now to 4.1 acres.
At the press conference, County Executive Jim Ladwig said the Belle Harbor lagoon is now too shallow with sediments to use without dredging, being only 18-24 inches deep. Filling it provides a better redevelopment site, he said.
“I feel it’s important to have a real high-quality development to be the gateway to (Downtown) Racine,” Ladwig said.
State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, a longtime advocate for Racine riverfront development, said redevelopment of Belle Harbor Marina fits into the overall RootWorks revitalization plan.
“I think it will be one of the key redevelopment areas” to revitalize the Downtown Root River area, Mason said.
Marina days past
Belle Harbor Marina has about 40 slips, about half of them on the river and half in the lagoon.
The County was obligated under the previous Reefpoint operating license to provide winter boat storage. When Case-New Holland (now CNH Industrial) developed land alongside Root River for a new office complex, the county had to find another option; it bought Belle Harbor from private owners in 1990 for $1.3 million.
But when the County bought Reefpoint Marina in early 2012 and the previous operating license expired, the County was no longer obligated to provide that winter storage. So Belle Harbor became a prospective redevelopment site.
The Fund for Lake Michigan was established in conjunction with the resolution in 2008 of disputes concerning the Oak Creek Power Plant and Elm Road Generating Station in southeastern Wisconsin. The agreement provides for payments of $4 million each year from 2011-35 to fund Lake Michigan-related projects.
At Belle Harbor, the Fund’s Executive Director Vick Elkin said the group has given more than 70 grants totaling $7.5 million, helping to create jobs and increase tax base.