Saturday, June 15, 2024

Marina attendance grows, but revenue drops. Here’s what the county plans to do about it

Attendance has skyrocketed at Billsburg Brewery, but revenue took a slight dip. (WYDaily/File photo)
Attendance has skyrocketed at Billsburg Brewery, but revenue took a slight dip. (WYDaily/File photo)

For several years, James City County’s parks have been growing in popularity, gradually attracting more residents and visitors to recreate.

The county has been chipping away at capital improvement projects at three of its parks since 2009, aiming to increase attendance at Chickahominy Riverfront Park, Jamestown Beach Event Park and the James City County Marina.

Between fiscal year 2017 and 2019, attendance at all three parks has seen an increase.

The marina in particular saw attendance skyrocket during that time period, but lagged behind revenue-wise. 

Parks and Recreation Centers Administrator Carla Brittle said $6 million in planned improvements at the marina — and continued improvements at the other parks — will help to boost revenue and attendance in the future.

“We certainly have growth at the marina — every boat slip is rented,” Brittle said. 

From fiscal year 2017 to 2019, the marina lost $15,000 in revenue, from $232,000 in 2017 to $217,000, according to agenda documents filed for Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors work session.

The loss in revenue can be attributed to a loss of 14 uncovered boat slips out the marina’s stock of 75, Brittle said. The 14 were condemned because the water often flooded the docks and they were also very shallow.

Uncovered boat slips rent for $175 per month. 

Meanwhile, Chickahominy Riverfront Park saw an $84,000 increase during the same time period, from $341,000 to $425,000. Jamestown Beach Event Park saw a 26,900 increase.

Brittle said every holiday weekend is fully booked for camping at Chickahominy Riverfront Park, which has had a new splash pad and recent pool improvements. The road connections have also been improved, and a boathouse for the local rowing club and other school rowing teams was built.

Jamestown Beach Event Park has also expanded its offerings at its concession stand, improved the quality of the beach itself and constructed a restroom facility.

Kayak and canoe racks that are rented for $15 per month are also helping contribute to the revenue at each park, Brittle said.

Here are the local attendance numbers:

  • James City County Marina — FY17: 118,008, FY19: 313,892
  • Chickahominy Riverfront Park — FY17: 319,980, FY19: 336,684
  • Jamestown Beach Event Park — FY17: 265,388, FY19: 296,996

Marina Improvements

Brittle said Billsburg Brewery, which opened in late 2017, has contributed substantially to the increase in attendance at the marina, but planned marina improvements will help contribute even more.

The loss of boat slips is expected to be remedied by newly constructed boat slips and dredging in the marina basin, among other site improvements, that are part of the $3.1 million Phase I of the $6 million marina improvement project. That work is expected to take 120 days to complete, and the county is currently securing permits. The project will begin this winter. 

“You make a decision on whether you spend money to keep fixing something, knowing we’re about to update the master plan,” Brittle said.

The improvement plan includes 108 boat slips, but that number is subject to change, she added.

“There are components in these parks that affect economic development,” she said.

Tracking improvements

Part of making improvements to the county parks requires the county to have a system for tracking attendance numbers.

Brittle said the county uses a number of techniques to gauge attendance, including traffic counters, special event attendance reports, parking numbers and more.

Tracking the numbers also helps identify what improvements have worked to increase visitation. 

James City County staff and a committee are currently working to update the county’s Shaping Our Shores Master Plan, which outlines improvements and amenities planned for the parks in the future.

“Each park has an approved master plan,” Brittle said. “That shows all the different amenities we’d like to see in the park in the future. That list is come up with based on comment cards, people requesting things, participation numbers to see if we’ve outgrown something and more.”

A status update on the process will be given at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

There will be opportunities for public comment and input both online and at future meetings, Brittle added.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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