Marina at Rowena is a ‘go’

Posted July 12, 2017 at 2:05 pm


Marina at Rowena partners, Tom Allen, left, and Tony Sloan, right, provided the Clinton County News a tour Monday of the area where facilities will be built for the new marina on Lake Cumberland. The view directly behind Sloan and boat driver Pat Wagner, is where the new dock store and fuel pumping facility will be built, with a walkway and boat slip structure leading from the parking lot and new launch ramp. Sloan estimated that the first phase of construction could cost as much as $7 million.

After over a decade of planning, meetings, surveying and at junctures along the way, throwing their hands up in the air and nearly giving up on the project, Tony Sloan and Tom Allen were all smiles last week when they met with officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to sign the lease agreement for the Marina at Rowena.

Sloan and Allen are the managing partners for the new marina they will be building on Lake Cumberland that will be known as Marina at Rowena and will be located at what is referred to as Rowena Landing South.

Although the bulk of the new facility will be physically located in Russell County, much of the leased area as well as the adjoining land that will be developed privately, is in Clinton County and is only accessible by road through Clinton County.

Sloan and Allen spent much of Monday morning providing the Clinton County News with an in depth explanation of what was planned for the new marina, as well as a land and water tour of the area where the new facility will be located.

The new marina will be situated near the end of Hwy. 558 just across the Clinton County and Russell County boundary.

Sloan has long been a fixture in the local marina business community, at one time being a co-owner and operator of Grider Hill Dock, a marina built by his father in the 1950s and operated by the Sloan family until it was sold several years ago.

In addition, Sloan is an owner of another Lake Cumberland marina, Conley Bottom, and he and Allen are partners in a Dale Hollow Lake marina in neighboring Pickett County, Tennessee, Sunset Marina.

The Rowena site lease consists of just over 400 acres and Sloan noted Monday that there are 2,000 more acres that are contiguous to the lease site that can be developed for public use and enjoyment.

Sloan said that the Lake Cumberland and Dale Hollow market during the summer tourism months was mainly people from Ohio, Indiana, Virginia and even Michigan.

With access to the marina available by land only by driving through Clinton County, both Sloan and Allen said the benefit to the Clinton County economy would be extremely substantial.

The Marina at Rowena will become the ninth marina to operate commercially on Lake Cumberland.

Sloan and Allen told the Clinton County News that a large parking lot and launch ramp will be the first changes the local public will see being built.

The launch ramp will be located across the cove from where 558 currently runs into Lake Cumberland and a large parking lot will be built in the area where the cove of water is currently formed.

Sloan said that plans are to use rock from bluffs and berms adjacent to the location to build up the elevation where the parking lot and ramp are planned.

Allen said that some 100,000 cubic yards of rock from the area will be blasted and moved during the first part of the construction process.

Sloan told the Clinton County News that his dream for the Marina at Rowena was a gamble on the future prosperity of the nation and he believed that with an increasing population and an improving economy, the facility would come to be one of the busiest and most successful ventures on Lake Cumberland.

The location of the planned marina alone – just upstream from and practically in sight of Wolf Creek Dam and adjacent to one of the largest openings in the lake, would be a natural draw to boaters recreating on the lake.

Allen also pointed out that the Rowena location would be first service location that boaters would see when they were using the new massive launching and parking facility that was built adjacent to Wolf Creek Dam during the rehabilitation work completed there a few years ago.

Sloan further said that the project seemed to be stalled on more than one occasion in the past decade but he and Allen continued working on getting the lease approved.

While he was quick to give credit to all of the Kentucky congressional delegation at every level, as well as leaders from the local government level for getting and staying behind the plans, he was also quick to heap praise on his partner for his perseverance and persistence in not giving up on the dream.

Allen said that during the application process, there were hurdles that had to be dealt with and often the resolution to those hurdles would even create new hurdles that had to be resolved.

“A lot of people lost faith in the process but we just kept chipping away and chipping away,” Allen said Monday morning while at the site where the parking lot will soon be under construction.

“Tommy deserves the credit for doing all of the ‘chipping'” Sloan said. “Every time we would run into a problem or a question or a wall, Tommy would just find the answer and work it out and keep it alive.”

The decade long review process included cultural, historical, environmental, and archaeological reviews as well as multiple market and feasibility studies.

Sloan said he plans to build an ultra-modern facility that will attract boaters from this entire region of the nation.

“This is going to be the epicenter of Lake Cumberland,” Sloan said Monday morning.

Already a crew of about a dozen men are hard at work preparing and building portions of the steel and wooden sections that will be linked together to form a wide walkway that will lead from the launch ramp to the planned main dock structure .

That main dock facility will be situated at the end of the cove that forms the Rowena Landing area.

From that location where the dock building will be situated, a view to the west will allow patrons to see downstream for about four miles to the high cliffs just south of Wolf Creek Dam.

To the east, a view of Lake Cumberland upstream allows about eight miles of uninterrupted sight of the lake’s surface waters.

The lease agreement calls for the blasting and rock moving that will form the parking lot and launch area to be the first completed portion of construction, and will be followed by the construction and placement of the walkway itself.

Many of the 22 sections of 80 foot long walkway are being constructed now in a location in Clinton County near Hwy. 558 just north of where the new marina will be built.

Along that walkway that will lead to the main dock building will be some 121 moorage slips for boats, including more than 50 open air houseboat slips on the west side and on the east side, covered slips for smaller vessels such as cruisers, pontoons and recreational boats of various sizes.

Sloan also explained that the overhead covering would extend out over the walkway that leads to the building, giving customers the protection from inclement weather conditions as they make their way to the dock building.

According to the plan, that main dock building will eventually be equipped with a marina store, restrooms, fuel dock, pump out facilities, and boat rental operations.

Space will also be allocated for a café in the future.

Allen said that he would hope to see an outdoor eating area included in those café plans that would allow customers to enjoy a meal or snack in the open air next to the lake, while protected by a roof and a short wall surrounding the area.

The pair even talked about the possibility of that outdoor eating area being equipped with an air conditioning system that would keep patrons comfortable despite temperatures that are normally associated with southern Kentucky during the summer tourism season.

They estimated that construction costs to get the project past the initial phase and having the ramp, parking lot, walkway and dock building completed, could cost more than $7 million.

The idea of a marina being located at the Rowena location isn’t something new that Sloan and Allen dreamed up, but was one of the mentioned locations for a commercial marina in the Corps of Engineers Lake Cumberland Master Plan released in 1949.

“This is the only site on the lake that was mentioned in the Master Plan, that has never had a lease granted,” Sloan said.

The pair of businessmen first began working on the plan to see a commercial marina located at Rowena following the 2006 lowering of Lake Cumberland brought on by the repair and rehabilitation project surrounding a leaking Wolf Creek Dam.

At the time, London Dock was unable to continue to operate at the lower lake levels, and the owners of that marina were looking for an alternative site to relocate where the water was deeper.

Sloan and Allen began helping the London Dock owner, Nancy Mitchell, seek approval for the moving of that facility, but due to several obstacles and conflicts between the various agencies involved, the project was not approved.

With two years of research and planning already under their belts, Sloan and Allen were encouraged by a host of public officials to continue pursuit of developing the site for a new commercial marina.

After a 10-year review process that the pair said was lengthy and expensive, last week’s signing ceremony in the Nashville, Tennessee office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finally brought that portion of the venture to a close and opened the door for the start of actual construction phases.

Lt. Col. Stephen Murphy, Nashville District commander, joined Sloan and Allen, to sign the lease agreement at the district headquarters in the Estes Kefauver Federal Building at Nashville, Tennessee.

“I really want to say thank you to the (Corps of Engineers) team. There was a lot of effort, a lot of review, a lot of meetings to reach this milestone,” Murphy said. “Today’s lease signing is very good for the lake and everyone around the lake.”

Eventually, the plan calls for the construction of a host of other possible facilities that would serve the tourism trade visiting the marina.

Among those plans include picnic areas, walking and biking trails, sites for both seasonal and transient recreational vehicle parks and even proposed lodging facilities that would offer overnight lodging with a view of Lake Cumberland.