Marina operators optimistic about summer season |

Marina operators optimistic about summer season

SUMMIT COUNTY – With water predictions for reservoirs finally taking a positive turn, marina manager Bob Evans isn’t so much worried about the Dillon Reservoir filling up as he is about it filling up too fast.

In April, Denver Water, the utility agency that owns and manages the Dillon reservoir and others, released new water predictions. Currently, the colloquially known lake holds 48 percent of its capacity. With dry weather, water engineers pegged reservoir peak capacity at 78 percent; with normal precipitation, Dillon Reservoir could hit 92 percent; if Summit County’s lucky enough to get really wet, the reservoir could fill completely.

Evans said Thursday he is optimistic, “but predictions were optimistic last year, too.” He expects to open by Memorial Day. If the water level rises too quickly, however, it causes operational problems, he said.

“It’s hard to move nine docks every day – they’re all floating,” Evans said. “It takes a lot of manpower.”

When water levels dropped drastically last year, Evans installed wheels underneath dock ramps to make the moves easier. The wheels never came off. “You’ve got to be ready for anything in this business,” he said.

The Dillon Marina has changed its marketing focus in the face of weather and economic pressures. The waterfront’s historic draw has been boaters from other well-developed yacht club communities such as Chicago and Los Angeles. Evans said marketing efforts this year will focus on locals and the Front Range consumer.

“I’ve been in this business 30 years, and when the economy goes bad, the first thing people get rid of is their toys,” said Evans, who noted he saw the same bust cycle in 1986 when Denver’s oil sector crashed. “And this summer, people probably won’t be traveling as far, so we’re switching our focus.”

Last summer wasn’t all bad news at the docks, though. The marina’s special events – fundraisers for a local animal welfare group, Summit County Search and Rescue, and wildfire relief efforts – came close to record attendance and proceeds. The annual regatta in August posted a strong showing, even though a crane had to be hired to help the boats in and out of the water. The marina’s sailing program for children took off, too, Evans said.

Building on that success, the marina also is teaming up with companies in the conference industry. Evans said the two industries can help each other by attracting prospective conference attendees with boating packages.

“We hope to offer some team-building activities through boating,” Evans said. “They can have a meeting in our conference room in the morning, have lunch at the Tiki Bar and then have a learning experience out on the water.”

The greatest concern for Heeney Marina operators is not water levels but highway construction. Debbie Mitchener helps operate the docks with husband Dale and said more Highway 9 work this summer poses a threat to business recovery.

Last summer, Green Mountain Reservoir sank to low levels. The reservoir would have dropped further but for the Bureau of Reclamation’s decision to keep water up to prevent a historic landslide area from potentially slipping into the lake bed. The water was low enough that the Mitcheners had to run 500 feet of hose from the marina fuel pump to the new dock location.

The reservoir has risen a couple feet in the past week, Debbie Mitchener said, and the ice melted off this week. She noted the lake is big even when it’s half-full. In the same report on Dillon Reservoir, Denver Water engineers said normal precipitation would fill Green Mountain, too.

“So we’re cautiously optimistic,” she said.

The marina’s customers comprise Summit and Eagle county residents and Front Range boaters and fishers. Mitchener said she worries many have given up after last summer’s roadblocks.

“That was the biggest killer – people just didn’t come,” she said. “We hope this year everybody comes who didn’t make it up last year.”

Osprey Adventures and Frisco Marina operator Bernie Baltich could not be reached Thursday but told the Summit Daily News last month that he was giddy over the water prediction news. The Frisco Marina also suffered last year from construction on Frisco’s new Lakefront Park, and Baltich’s crew had to shuttle customers nearly a half-mile to relocated docks because of the drought.

Baltich put last year’s decline at up to 78 percent and said higher water levels will go a long way to change that trend.

“It has to keep improving from here, though,” Baltich said on April 7. “We don’t want to jinx it, so I don’t want to talk about it too much.”

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or

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