Frisco begins Big Dig, sets groundwork for future marina improvements |

Frisco begins Big Dig, sets groundwork for future marina improvements

Frisco Bay Marina Friday, June 22, in Frisco.
Hugh Carey /

The “Big Dig” has arrived.

The town of Frisco officially kicked off the Big Dig with a ceremonial groundbreaking on Monday afternoon, signaling the beginning of years of planned improvements as part of the Frisco Bay Marina Master Plan.

The Big Dig is a substantial excavation of up to 85,000 cubic yards of dirt from the reservoir’s lakebed, a move that’s expected to drastically improve navigation at the marina and lengthen the boating season. But the project will also lay the groundwork (literally) for a number of other improvements scheduled over the next several years.

“What we’re going to see is this wonderful asset developing further towards its full potential, and providing access for more of us,” said Chris Guarino, a Frisco resident who’s leading the project. “We want to give that experience to more kids on the beach, more people renting boats and more people having picnics. …It’s modernizing, it’s expanding and it’s exciting.”

The Big Dig will lower areas of the lakebed by as much as 13 feet, bringing the most desirable parts of the Dillon Reservoir to an elevation below the reservoir’s “glory hole” — a spillover where the water flows once the lake fills up and begins to drain — allowing water levels to remain steadier during fluctuation periods, presumably improving navigation for boaters throughout the season, and lessening the workload for the marina’s staff.

“The deepening of the bay is going to be huge,” said Tom Hogeman, manager at the marina. “It’ll give us a buffer in fluctuating water levels. Right now if the lake drops only 5 or 6 feet, it’s still at 97 percent full, but we have to move to our low water plan. Now if that happens, it won’t matter as much. We won’t have to move anything or chase the water where the docks are. We’ll be able to operate as normal.”

While the excavation should end up having a big impact on the marina’s operations, it also provides a means for other large-scale improvements to take place in phase one of the Marina Master Plan and beyond. In the coming weeks visitors will begin to see a giant mound of dirt piled by the marina’s entrance, though it won’t last long as every ounce is expected to be repurposed for future projects.

Some of the dirt will be used to build on the existing beach, considerably expanding it to up to three times its current size and creating a more gradual slope to make it more user friendly for kids playing in the sand along with people trying to access the water from the beach.

Additional dirt from the excavation will be dumped south of the marina, an area currently dominated by wetlands. The dirt will be used to build up a flat shelf of land, creating about three new usable acres along the water for future improvement projects.

“This first phase will create a graded flat area for the future phases starting in the summer of 2020,” said Guarino. “The town is anticipating that is the location of the new marina office building: a new facility with offices, rentals, larger and better restroom accommodations and more infrastructure.”

The remaining dirt will be used to build up the shoreline on the north side of the marina area, at the bank near Summit Middle School, an area popular for fishing. And because the town is disturbing wetlands, the Army Corps of Engineers requires the town perform other wetlands mitigation projects in response.

In addition to the Big Dig, the town will begin implementing the first phase of the Marina Master Plan in mid-April, the biggest part of which is the relocation and expansion of the boat ramp. The old ramp will be covered during the expansion of the beach, and an upgraded ramp will be built in the wetlands area.

“The current ramp is technically two lanes, but they’re narrow and often used as one lane,” said Guarino. “This new ramp will be three considerably larger lanes. You don’t have to be an expert trailer driver, and three guests should all be able to back down at the same time to drop their boats off. That should help move things along.”

The town will be placing an ADA accessible ramp adjacent to the new ramp, though it’s still being designed and may well be installed after the rest of phase one is complete. A wider turnaround lane is being built above the boat ramp, which is expected to accommodate more vehicle traffic.

On top of the new ramps, phase one of the project will include the relocation of the retaining wall from near the existing boat ramp to the new wetlands area, creating a walkway for pedestrians. Finally, though not technically part of phase one, the marina may be adding an additional dock with 20 extra slips to help keep up with growing demand.

The price tag for the Big Dig and phase one of the project is about $4 million, Guarino said. The town issued $5.4 million in marina enterprise bonds in February to help fund the excavation, phase one and projects moving forward.

The Big Dig and phase one of the master plan are expected to be completed by the end of May, in time for the annual Rock the Dock party on June 1. But before the ribbon is cut on the new-look marina, the town will be hosting a Touch the Trucks event on April 4, inviting kids and their parents to check out the construction equipment and get an early look at the project’s progress.

“I remember when Frisco did the first major improvement to the marina, and it really felt like a big deal,” said Guarino. “It was modernizing our wonderful asset, it created a huge draw and provided a dining experience. It’s almost like watching a kid grow up here. It learned how to walk, became an adolescent and began to thrive. What we’re doing now is really building upon what the town has already done a great job creating, and we’re bringing it to its full potential.”

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