The Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors has applied for a $5 million grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation to construct a 14,200-square foot boating center for storage of rowing shells, kayaks and a kayak rental service in Marina del Rey.

The grant request is to build the center at Burton Chace Park, but Barry Fisher, vice president of the Los Angeles Rowing Club (LARC), said the center should instead be built at Marina (Mothers) Beach because a formerly planned project had been canceled, leaving room for a boating center.

Charlotte Miyamoto, a county planning staff member, presented a report at the Sept. 14 Small Craft Harbor Commission meeting about sailing, rowing, outrigger canoe clubs, paddle boarding, and general boating opportunities in Marina del Rey.

Some speakers, including Russ Carrington, owner of Action Watersports in Marina del Rey, addressed the lack of sufficient storage for these activities.

“Some of the problems I’m seeing are that there is not enough access and not enough storage,” said Carrington. “I have personally been on a waiting list for four years and have never seen a space open up.”

Beaches and Harbors operates facilities next to the public boat launch ramp and on and nearby Marina Beach. At this time, there are 228 rack storage spaces and eight outrigger canoe spaces at Marina Beach, but users of small craft say they need more storage.

In a Oct. 17 letter by Fisher to the state Department of Parks and Recreation Office of Grants and Local Services, he stated in part, “For at least the last three years on LARC’s behalf, I along with representatives of the Marina del Rey Recreational Boating Council (MDRRBC), the Marina del Rey Outrigger Canoe Club (MDROCC), and other groups have participated in public hearings regarding Marina del Rey recreational boating before many public entities, including the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission staff hearings, Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors, Richard Bruckner and Santos Kreimann [Beaches and Harbors director] and their staffs.

“These hearings and meetings, which recreational boating community organizations participated in, present a long record of many years regarding the preservation and upgrading of Mothers Beach — the single public access recreational boating center in the Marina, and the Marina’s single beach launch area needed for most kinds of recreational boating including adult and youth training uses of paddle boards, outrigger canoes, rowing, kayaking and sailing,” said Fisher.

“At these meetings and hearings over the years, LARC, the MDRCBC and its constituent members, including the LARC and the MDROCC emphasized the critical importance of protecting Mothers Beach, the center of Marina del Rey’s recreational boating and the single place in the Marina where all forms of recreational boating can launch and train, as it is the only beach. Chace Park is not now, nor has it been in the past, a recreational boating center. It has no beach and allows only for deep water entry. Even if one launches there, safety issues at launch and at entry to the main Marina channel exist that are absent regarding Mothers Beach,” said Fisher.

He also wrote about the many youth programs taking place at Mothers Beach, and the thousands of recreational participants in outrigger and other regattas that all rely on Mothers Beach “from dark early morning to evening seven days a week.”

Fisher pointed out that a “strong letter from U.S. Rowing Association CEO Glenn Merry underscoring problems with Chace Park and the benefits of Mothers Beach was presented by the Southwest Regional representative at the Nov. 3, 2010 county Regional Planning Commission hearing. It supported preserving Mothers Beach as the Marina del Rey recreational boating center, cautioned against using Chace Park as the entry for boating, and supported the development of a boathouse at Mothers Beach.”

Kreimann explained that in applying for the grant, certain conditions had to be met. The identity of the location had to be described and community outreach and input from the public was required. No real community outreach had been done for Mothers Beach, he said.

Kreimann said that at Fisher’s request, he had called the state office to confirm that a designation identification was mandatory, and that the evaluation process had begun.

It was more responsible to apply for the grant as the opportunity presented itself, he said. He added that if the identification could have been changed to Mothers Beach he would do so, “but if the $5 million is attached to Burton Chace Park, then we’ll go in that direction,” he said.

The dockside expansion program at Parcel 77 lends itself to interim storage for paddle boats until the grant funding is secured, said Kreimann.

“I’m committed to expanding personal watercraft in the Marina,” he said, adding that he would like to see a boat center at both the park and at Mothers Beach.