If you are a regular reader of the Pleasant Hill/Martinez Record and the Concord Transcript, you are familiar with the "On the Road" photos, and may have seen the picture of my family's recent cruise through the Panama Canal over the Christmas and New Year holiday.
It was an amazing journey starting in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., with stops in Aruba, Columbia, through the Panama Canal and up the west coast of Central America. On our trip back to Los Angeles, we had stops in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The most memorable part of the trip was the 14-hour passage through the Panama Canal. This amazing feat of human engineering was built over a 40-year struggle by two nations and was completed in 1913.
Much of the technology has been updated since those days, but the basic concrete and steel locks and water-control systems are over 100 years old.
Traveling through the canal and visiting so many ports and harbors over a 15-day span really showed me how important water transportation is to our world trade, economy and recreation.
Every port we entered was teeming with cargo vessels, tugs, fishing boats and ferries.
Once we left the ship and ventured ashore, we found lively towns and cities with much of their existence tied to the water in one way or the other.
It made me think of Martinez and how Martinez was founded on the shores of the Carquinez Strait because of trade, economics, recreation and its strategic position between the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Martinez waterfront is and will always be an important facet of the city and its economy.
Today, our marina is in dire need of being rebuilt. We have been working on solutions to the dilemma for more than a decade with only limited success. We have managed to rebuild Ferry Plaza, install new launch ramps and remove the old Court Street Pier.
The main challenge with our marina is how do we retire the $4.2 million debt that was used to build the marina 50 years ago, and build the cash flow to pay for the replacement of the docks and breakwater while staying ahead of the dredging issues?
For the last six months, Councilman Mike Menesini and I have been working with city staff in negotiations with the state Lands Commission, state Department of Finance, state Department of Recreation and Department of Boating and Waterways on solutions to the debt and future development issues. I believe we are finally on the verge of some of those solutions.
A case in point is the recently introduced legislation sponsored by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, that will change the status of the lands of the marina from a 46-year lease (which took effect in 2010) to a land grant held in the public trust in perpetuity.
This very important move will give the city more flexibility in rebuilding the marina and developing landside amenities in adjacent areas.
These can include dry stack storage of boats, hotel, restaurant, event center, marine sales, etc. No residential development will be allowed under this land grant.
Just as all of those cities and towns my family visited over the recent holiday is tied to the water, we in Martinez are too.
I am working hard with my colleagues to keep Martinez accessible to the water and hope to report to you many successes in the next few months.
Schroder is the mayor of Martinez. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.