A look at Guttenberg's municipal marina

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Jim Zerbe, who manages the municipal marina south of Lock and Dam 10, believes the facility has had a positive economic impact on Guttenberg. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

By Shelia Tomkins

The Guttenberg Municipal Marina, located along the Mississippi River just south of Lock and Dam 10, has attracted boaters and visitors to the community since its dedication in 2011. 

Jim Zerbe, a seasonal city employee who has looked after the facility for the past five years, believes the marina is a great asset to the community and says its economic impact goes far beyond the rental fees collected.

The marina offers 36 permanent and nine transient slips, along with a 14-slip courtesy dock located in front of the marina visitor center.

"The permanent slips have been full for three years, and there has been a waiting list," he said. "The revenue from the marina is covering the annual costs and maintenance expense. It is also paying down the debt, due to be paid off in 2024. We are on schedule for having it paid off."

The $4.5 million marina complex, which also includes the visitor center, was financed with a combination of federal and state funds, grants and local financing.

Economics & customer service

The local economic impact does not stop with rental fees. "That's only the beginning," said Zerbe. "All 36 boats have to be maintained and serviced, usually by a local facility— they have to have fuel, they have to be put in and put out, and they have to be stored over the winter." Local hotels and eating places also benefit from the increased visitor traffic. 

Zerbe believes customer service is the primary focus of his duties.  He tries to greet each boater as they arrive, monitoring arrivals by regularly checking an on-site camera from his computer and stopping by an average of four times a day. "Their first impression will be a lasting one," he believes. Making a personal connection with visitors and offering help when problems arise creates a favorable visitor experience. The community benefits with return visits and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Through the years, visitors have made many positive comments to Zerbe about Guttenberg's marina, with boaters describing it as one of the best-designed and best-kept facilities on the river. "They are also very impressed with the visitor center and its amenities," he said.  Showers and Wi-Fi are offered there, and a community meeting room is available for rental.  The patio area atop the visitor center offers a beautiful view of the river, and has even been used for weddings. An online registration system managed by the city office staff was instituted several years ago, so boaters can now easily make reservations and pay online. 

In addition to a positive economic impact, Zerbe says the marina also helped beautify the shoreline in what was once a neglected area. Last year's improvements in the courtesy dock area have further improved the looks and safety of the site.

Policies and safety rules

City officials have established policies and rules to provide for the safety and comfort of users. "The marina doesn't allow swimming and fishing because it is privately leased and people are entitled to their leased areas and privacy," said Zerbe.  

"Swimming is absolutely not allowed," he said, the main concern being accidental interaction  with the 50-amp electrical system servicing the slips. "We will enforce it because of a safety factor."

"Historically we have been allowing kids to fish off the docks, but we ask them to respect the boaters' areas and their property — to  keep the noise level down, and no large groups. If it continues with no problem, they will be allowed to fish off the docks." The area is monitored and taped for security reasons. 

A complete list of rules and fees can be found on the marina link on the city's website at www.cityofguttenberg.com.

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