Pleasure Island has been through three hurricanes in the last 10 years, and now it has to weather another storm — bringing boats back to the once thriving marina after nearly all there were destroyed from high winds and surging flood waters.
Though there has been no official ceremony to launch the $9 million facility’s re-opening, the newly-improved 300-slip floating dock marina quietly opened for business a couple of months ago, Jimmy Dike, Pleasure Island director, said.
A look at the many vacant slips, filled only with the sun-glistened waters of Lake Sabine, would signify something quite different.
Dike blamed the absence of boats on storms, three of them — first Humberto, then Rita, then Ike — all wrecking havoc on Gulf Coast shores from southwest Louisiana to Galveston, and Pleasure Island in-between.
“After all these storms there are just no boats left,” Dike said. “All of ours were destroyed in the hurricanes.”
Paul Morgan, harbor master with the Beaumont Yacht Club said Pleasure Island is not alone. The absence of boats is an industry-wide problem, especially along the coastal communities where hurricane damage destroyed so many.
“We had two boats to sink. Port Arthur had closer to 400,” Morgan said.
The Beaumont marina on the Neches River is currently about 80 percent full, down from its pre-hurricane status when there was a waiting list to get in.
“There used to be a lot more boats out there; those are out of the food chain now,” Morgan said. “I have friends with other marinas; there are more marinas than boats now.”
In addition to storm damage, Morgan blamed a continued weak economy and a trend to trailer boats in lieu of paying the monthly lease fee at a marina.
Pleasure Island was largely filled with small sailboats prior to the storms. Often, those boats were aging, and not insured. Most were not replaced, Dike said.
Since the Pleasure Island marina opened, about three new boaters returned to join those boats already moored, for a total of 26 moored at the marina.
Dike says the boats are coming back slowly.
In the meantime, the Pleasure Island Commission is looking for ways to market the marina, to let boaters know all the amenities Pleasure Island has to offer.
Unlike other nearby marinas, Pleasure Island’s was rebuilt mostly with floating docks. Lighthouse-shaped fixtures line each, providing ample night light as well as a water connection for boater’s convenience. The marina also offers full hydrant protection.
The price — set from the results of a market study — very competitive, Dike said.
Lease prices are $7 per foot. The marina can accommodate boats as large as 100 feet.
Those the boat stalls are nearly complete, the entire project is not.
Still to come are additional paved roads leading straight to the docks, and covered stalls near the front of the marina for those boaters caught in inclement weather.
Though there is a challenge to get boats back to the marina, Dike said the Commission elected to rebuild while FEMA was paying the bill.
FEMA will reimburse the Island about 90 percent for the expenditure. The Island’s match portion was $2.5 million — a sum that was borrowed from the city.
“We hope to be totally complete by Spring, then Port Arthur will have one of the most beautiful state-of-the-art marinas, and one of the most assessable, Dike said.”