City to celebrate improved marina
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
May 6, 2014, 12:10
CAITLIN DAVIS/STAFF PHOTO Ronnie Ellis stands on the deck of the new ship store at the marina, which has never been on the property before.
HOPEWELL — After months and months of digging and construction, the Hopewell Marina has a new life by the river. More than $1 million in improvements have come to an end and the marina will provide a haven for boaters from all around the water.
The journey to give the marina a facelift began in September of 2012. Council approved the $1.5 million project for renovations at the Marina, and J.W. Enochs, of Enochs and Enochs, was the only bid on the project.
Once the contract was approved for Enochs, construction at the marina began at the start of 2013. A new roof was put on the shed, the parking lot has been re-paved and re-striped, as well as parking spaces added, such as handicapped parking, and a drainage problem corrected.
A new concrete boat ramp has been added and bulkheads were put in as well. There is also a canoe launch at the marina, which is one of the only ones in the surrounding area.
A new dock was installed along with a concrete bandstand, which will be used for awards presentations should the marina host fishing and boating tournaments.
One addition to the marina is a ship store, which has never been at the property before. The ship store will be owned and operated by Fishtails, a store that has been in the city for a number of years. The contract to have Fishtails run the ship store at the marina was approved in March by City Council.
Ronnie Ellis, along with his wife, Terri, have taken over the store, which will be a second Fishtails location. For seven years, Ronnie and his wife have been running Fishtails and wanted to bring their experience from their store on Broadway to the river.
“I have been involved in fishing all my life,” Ronnie said. “I grew up fishing and on the water. My uncles and families, we fished all the time.”
Ronnie has been fishing since he was around the age of 8. He said being by the water and fishing are a passion of his, along with firefighting. Ronnie is a captain for the Hopewell Fire and EMS and has been with the department for 12 years. His wife, Terri, also works locally, as a dispatcher with the Hopewell Police Department. That local passion that both Ronnie and Terri have was why they put their names in to bid on the contract for the store.
“We wanted to keep it local,” Ronnie said. “Somebody that knows the citizens. Somebody that knows what the boaters and the fishermen want around here.”
Ronnie, who was pleased to see the marina undergo improvements, said the store will differ slightly from the store down the street. He said the Fishtails on Broadway is strictly fishing equipment and supplies, but the store at the marina will have fishing and marine tackle.
The store will also cater to boaters who have spent long days floating on the river. There will be showers, bathrooms, and convenience store items, such as drinks and sandwiches.
Bringing more people to the marina, and in turn to Hopewell, has been the vision of Councilor Wayne Walton for a number of years. To Walton, the river is the heartbeat of the city and it is a heartbeat that Walton wanted to become more steady.
“It’s been slow,” Walton said of the construction process. “We wanted to put in what people wanted. This [marina] has been here forever.”
Ronnie Ellis gets the ship store, now Fishtails, ready for the grand opening celebration.
When the marina was built in 1949, it was the Hopewell Yacht Club. When it was put in the hands of the city after 50 years of being the yacht club, Walton said the management became “haphazard.”
“When the city took it away, it wasn’t a priority,” Walton said.
Now that the marina has become a priority, boaters have started to notice the difference and have welcomed the change. Joey Cutrona, of Hopewell, brought his boat to the river one April afternoon and could not help but comment on the changes at the marina.
“There is nothing like this around,” Cutrona said, who added the new ramp is one of the best in the area. “The new improvements are great. It’s looking really nice. They are heading in the right direction. It is a 100 percent better than it was.”
One direction the marina is taking involves a few steps. Walton said FOLAR, Friends of the Lower Appomattox River, has been working on a river walk since 2003. The walk is planned from Lake Chesdin to the rivers in Hopewell.
The walk will take visitors from Appomattox Park in Prince George, to the bike path on River Road in the city, down Mesa Drive, to West Broadway, around the Bluffs and Weston Manor, to City Park, and Appomattox Manor.
As Walton stands along the water at the marina, he cannot help but let a smile break free as he sees the heartbeat start to become stronger at the marina.
“This is the gateway to the city,” Walton said. “Route 10 is coming along and this will really open up this part of town.”
The store at the marina will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Ronnie also said that when tournaments are held at the marina the store will cater to the hours needed.
“We’ll come in whatever hour they want to launch,” Ronnie said. “We will open the store here for them, whatever they need. We’re going to try to draw more tournaments and maybe in the future some bands or something. We want to have something that everybody can enjoy at the marina, not just the people that have boats.”
The grand opening celebration is planned for Saturday May 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be vendors, food, give-a-aways, patrol boats from surrounding areas and the Rock Bottom Bridge Band will be performing from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The marina is located at located at 1051 Riverside Ave.