The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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February 15, 2013

LEVINE: Operator has potential to make marina better

CLINTON — A new operator for the marina may turn out to be yet another improvement for the city of Clinton in what has already been a progressive 2013.

Clinton City Council members on Tuesday sent a proposal forward to the next meeting that would make Matt Prescott the next marina operator. Prescott owns the Candlelight Inn that sits in the amenities building on the top floor of the city-owned marina building.

When I came to Clinton almost five years ago, the marina became a running joke among residents of what was wrong with the city’s mentality of building structures before having money to pay for them.

Prescott, along with Mike Rastrelli of Rastrelli’s in Clinton, came forward in 2009 to provide a restaurant in the amenities building, which sat empty for about two years before Candlelight Inn opened in 2010.

Now, three years later, Prescott is coming forward again to help revive a part of Clinton that needs more attention.

Sometimes I feel life-long Clinton residents don’t get the importance of the Mississippi River. It’s always been there for them, so they dismiss it as just another amenity, like other towns would treat a movie theater or banquet hall.

But the river isn’t just another recreational activity. It’s unique.

Only a few towns in America reside on bodies of water, let alone an iconic river like the Mississippi. From when I entered Clinton to now, it seems that its ability to attract visitors, keep residents happy and make money, has been underutilized.

Now there’s a fresh face in possibly changing that tune.

The marina shouldn’t be just a place for boaters to pay their slip fees. Other cities have large operations, where boat rentals, classes and other river activities are offered at the marina. Even Camanche’s Rock Creek and Marina (albeit on the backwaters of the Mississippi) has options for recreational activities on the river, along with boat rentals.

Some of those operations are done privately, but it’s worth investigating on how to monetize and promote the river to its fullest capability.

The city took a big step in the right direction when it made the marina a first-class establishment and when a restaurant finally made its way to the river in 2010. Try to find a seat at the Candlelight Inn on a Friday night to see how that decision turned out.

The potential is still there for more, though.

Regional tourist destinations like the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri and Okoboji in Iowa offer boating as a major attraction. Those towns have other things going for it, like more restaurants, golf courses and recreational activities, but their main marketing campaign relies on water.

That’s something hopefully Prescott will focus on if confirmed by the City Council — find ways to allow visitors and non-boat owners an opportunity to enjoy the river. That would be a start, and any improvement and new ideas, would be a welcomed sight for the future.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at scottlevine@clintonherald.com. He has been with the Herald since 2008.

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