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Planning and Design Guidelines for Small Craft Harbors

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Organization: ASCE
Publication Date: 1 January 2012
Status: active
Page Count: 376


In everyday conversation the terms "harbor" and "marina" are often used interchangeably. For civil engineers involved in the planning, development, or operation of such waterfront facilities, the terms have different meanings. Small craft harbors are defi ned as basins in a body of water that provide protection from the elements (waves, wind, tides, ice, currents, etc.) for a variety of commercial and recreational watercraft. These facilities typically provide boat berthing (docks and moorings), launching and retrieval capabilities, basic boater supplies, auto parking lots, walkways, and associated land-based support facilities and services. Full-service marinas provide additional services and amenities designed to meet the needs of an increasingly sophisticated boating community. Marina patrons are typically boat owners who desire safe, comfortable, and attractive facilities that support recreational boating, including stable and aesthetically pleasing boat berths with utility service, restrooms and showers, fueling and sanitary pump-out stations, food service, and other amenities. The boating public is generally willing to pay for the convenience of an easily accessible and properly appointed "second home" atmosphere, above and beyond the mere provision of a safe place to store their boat.

Providing visual and physical access to the water's edge is an important design consideration for small boat harbors, especially for harbors located in parks or along public waterfront bicycle and pedestrian trail systems. Finding ways to both maintain public access to the waterfront and provide the facilities and amenities of modern small boat harbors is an achievable goal.

This manual uses the term "small craft harbors" rather than "marinas" when referring to the boat basins and the landside facilities that provide the basic support systems necessary to operate the small craft harbor.

Sheltered boat basins can be natural or constructed; in many cases, however, breakwaters are typically required at the harbor entrance to provide a desired level of protection for boats approaching and mooring in the harbor. The harbor site should be deep enough to provide safe anchorage, while minimizing the need for expensive protective structures and dredging. Ideally, a small craft harbor is accessible from land and water and has the infrastructure required to serve the user of the facility.

The planning of small craft harbors is a complex undertaking requiring a careful blending of sophisticated technical analyses and creative design ideas. Typically, a team of professionals from a variety of backgrounds assembles at the outset of the planning process. This team often requires expertise from outside the profession of civil engineering, due to heightened interest in environmental issues and increased demand for improved access to the recreational opportunities that the waterfront affords. A typical marina design team might consist of such diverse professionals as civil, structural, and geotechnical engineers, as well as architects, landscape architects, planners, lawyers, market and fi nancial analysts, environmental scientists, and marina managers.

Many factors can complicate small craft harbor development. Access can be limited by rail lines and highways, which often run parallel to the water's edge. Waterfront sites are typically characterized by poor soil conditions, deteriorated bulkheads, piers and pile foundations, wetlands, and sensitive near-shore environments. The destructive power of wind, waves, and currents often requires expensive harbor and fl ood protection. Varying water levels and tides pose a special challenge in achieving the desired land-water interface. In addition, overlapping governmental jurisdictions, a maze of permit requirements, and fragmented land ownership patterns all add to developmental diffi culties and costs.

Attractive and cost-effective solutions to address these development constraints are available. By blending the technical expertise of civil engineers with the experience and skills of the other contributing professionals, concepts can be translated into built projects that meet the public's and private developer's goals and satisfy the public's desire for an improved waterfront environment. Although these may sometimes seem like confl icting objectives, a successful development plan can integrate civil engineering solutions with creative site planning to achieve the objectives of all interest groups.

Because of the high costs and great diffi culties associated with waterfront development, public-private partnerships are often formed to share the fi nancial risks. Public bodies have shown a willingness to invest in the infrastructure of small craft harbors, recognizing that the economic impacts of such facilities often benefi t a large and broad spectrum of the community. With government participation, sites once thought to be undevelopable because of physical or regulatory constraints often prove to be feasible for development. This joint development approach presents many ownership and operating options to achieve a successful development strategy. In some instances revenue from commercial upland development can effectively offset a portion of the debt associated with the waterside development.

Small craft harbors must be planned on a project-specifi c basis. What works for a municipal marina project in Hawaii may fail miserably for a privately developed Great Lakes yacht club. The purpose of this chapter is to present basic planning principles and fi nancial considerations in a logical sequence. It begins with an overview of the planning process, followed by a discussion of market demand analysis. The chapter then progresses through location criteria; environmental, legal and regulatory issues; and technical considerations. Finally, it addresses a variety of fi nancing issues and funding methods associated with the development of successful small craft harbor development.

Document History

January 1, 2012
Planning and Design Guidelines for Small Craft Harbors
INTRODUCTION In everyday conversation the terms "harbor" and "marina" are often used interchangeably. For civil engineers involved in the planning, development, or operation of such waterfront...
January 1, 1994
Planning and Design Guidelines for Small Craft Harbors
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