Tour boat operator asking for dock space in a city-owned marina. 

February 22, 2021

Photo by Ludington Harbor Tours, LLC.

Tour boat operator asking for dock space in a city-owned marina. 

LUDINGTON — The City Council will receive an update on a request by a Ludington leisure and tour boat owner who is asking the city allow him to rent dock space for his boat at a city marina. Al Laaksonen owns the Princess of Ludington which began operation in 2020. Last year the boat was docked at a private dock along Washington Avenue. 

Laaksonen’s company, Ludington Harbor Tours LLC, operates the Princess of Ludington. He said, in a letter to the city, that his operation has been asked to vacate its current dockage because the owner of that property wants possession of the dock space for a development. 

During a recent meeting of the Ludington Marina Board, a discussion was held to allow the boat to dock along the outer (west side) wall at Waterfront Park, due to the space available for the vessel and parking, as well as the fact that it would have prime viewing areas, according to a Jan. 25, 2021 memo to the city council from City Manager Mitch Foster. Laaksonen has applied to have a spot in either of the city marinas, Waterfront Marina or Ludington Municipal Marina, but both marinas are at capacity for commercial vessels, according to Foster. 

Laaksonen, however, would like to see the vessel docked on the inner wall.

“It has come to my attention that the outer wall in front of Harborview Marina can be a very dangerous place for a vessel and potentially a safety hazard for pedestrians when it is docked during high winds from the west,” Laaksonen wrote to Foster on Feb. 1. “I was informed that a net boat was tied up there years ago nad was lifted up over the wall and sustained serious damages. That vessel was all steel and the Princess is all aluminum. High winds could be a disaster for the Princess and others. This concerns prompts me to… (sentence ends)… At the very least we must be allowed to move the vessel during periods of high west winds to the inside for protection and safe harbor.”

In a Feb. 17 email to Jackie Steckel, assistant to the city manager, Laaksonen commented about a recent marina board meeting. 

“It appears as if the committee stopped short of discussing the Princess docking at Harbor View Marina, in view of the remarks made by the city attorney. At a recent meeting of the marina board, they recommended the council ‘consider allowing the Princess of Ludington to use the outer wall as an exploratory option for 2021 season with the long term goal of possibly moving into the Harbor View Marina in the future’” I believe the prudent thing for the committee to do was to discuss the dockage on the east side of (the) wall which is owned by the city, and where the Princess needs to be. There is ample space and the location of the Princess would not impede on the view of the vast majority of boat owners in the marina.”

Laaksonen said his 2020 season was a success despite COVID-19 restrictions. 

“After operating the tour business for six months, I can see evidence of it making a significant contribution to the economy of the City of Ludington, the county and to the region,” he wrote in a Jan. 14, 2021 letter to the Marina Board. “Based upon the enormous amount of positive feedback from passengers on the Princess of Ludington and encouraging remarks from many businesses and citizens in the Ludington area, my confidence has been strengthened. 

The item is listed as a report item on the council’s agenda. No action is expected when the council meets at 6:30 p.m. tonight, Monday, Feb. 22. 

The meeting will meet online and can be viewed by Zoom or on the city’s Facebook page. Members of the public who wish to speak will have to access the meeting via Zoom. 

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