Unlocking Ormond Beach's waterfront: the story of Ormond's city docks
Is the floating dock at Cassen Park one of Ormond's 'best-kept secrets?' Ormond MainStreet seeks to change that, stating it is committed to raising awareness of its existence.
| 3:00 p.m. October 27, 2023
Ormond Beach Observer
The Intracoastal Waterway flows almost the entire length of the East Coast and presents Ormond Beach with an amazing opportunity to attract more visitors as boaters pass through downtown. The city maintains a small boat launch facility in Cassen Park, one of the four picturesque parks that anchor the Granada Bridge on the east and west sides. Thinking of the Intracoastal Waterway and the launch, an idea formed that adding a dock would be a golden opportunity to provide traveling boaters with the chance to stop and enjoy Ormond’s reinvigorated historic downtown with their vessels.
In 2015, Ormond Beach Main Street recognized the immense potential of welcoming traveling boaters to explore and experience the charm of their downtown. They pitched the idea of the dock to the City Commission, which unanimously approved its construction in 2016. The plan was to construct a modern floating dock on the southwest corner of the Granada Bridge, right at Cassen Park. Funding for the project was secured through community redevelopment funds, collected from downtown properties' taxes, and a generous grant from the Florida Inland Navigation District.
The process of planning and engineering began in 2018, with the involvement of city engineering staff, professional dock design companies, and experienced local boaters familiar with long-distance water travel. The main goal was to ensure a safe and user-friendly design that would make the dock a highlight of the downtown area. After careful consideration, the finalized design features a large concrete floating dock with concrete pilings extending well above any potential storm-high tides. Furthermore, to accommodate vessels up to approximately 60 feet, the existing shallow small boat channel that stretches from the boat launch ramp to the Intracoastal Waterway required dredging to a depth of 6 feet at low tide. The plan also called for the construction of a 500-foot breakwater to add an extra layer of protection to safeguard docked vessels and the existing fishing pier by the bridge from potential future hurricane damage.
Construction commenced in October of 2019 with the dredging of the channel, followed swiftly by the installation of the docks and breakwater. By March of 2020, construction had been completed and the docks ready to welcome boaters. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, March also brought newly enacted COVID restrictions, which resulted in the shutdown of city-owned public property, including the brand-new docks. As a result, for nearly two years, the docks remained underutilized, thwarting Ormond Main Street's plans to market this fantastic addition to the downtown area. Even still, it won an award through the Florida Secretary of State for Outstanding Public Improvement during this time.
COVID-19 affected various aspects of community life, and nonprofit organizations, like Ormond Main Street. However, the organization persevered during this time, only to encounter a minor setback during the 2022 hurricane season when passing hurricanes slightly damaged the docks. The city of Ormond Beach took swift action and appropriately closed the docks for repairs, that further delayed the use of the facility.
Thankfully, two months ago, the docks reopened to the public, but the existence of Ormond's best-kept secret remains known primarily to a small band of local boaters, who have learned about it through word of mouth. Nevertheless, Ormond Main Street has made a steadfast commitment to raise awareness about the downtown docks. The economic benefits for downtown merchants are undeniable, given the successful operation of over 70 free docks in communities similar to Ormond Beach, stretching from South Florida to North Carolina. Vast potential exists to attract boaters looking to explore the downtown area when considering the approximately 18,084 registered boats over 17 feet long in Volusia County and another 4,334 in Flagler County. The construction of the dock has created a great opportunity for local boaters to spend a day on the water with the opportunity to discover the historic charm of the city, along with the variety of eateries and retail outlets.
In addition to catering to local boaters, the dock has potential to tap into a broader market — boaters who journey from city to city, following seasonal changes. These travelers often rely on free docks, and in return, they contribute to host cities' economies by utilizing shoreside services. Unfortunately, current cruising guides indicate that Ormond Beach lacks facilities for exploring the town from the water, directing boaters to dock miles away in Daytona Beach. Ormond Main Street will work determinedly to change this narrative and attract these boaters to their city in the very near future.
In conclusion, Ormond Beach's floating dock offers a picturesque and welcoming spot for boaters to explore the city's historic charm, making it an invaluable addition to the downtown area. With proactive marketing and outreach efforts to the boating community, the city can unlock the full potential of this hidden gem, fostering economic growth, and becoming a sought-after destination for both local and traveling boaters.
John Adams, board member, Ormond Beach Main Street
Jerry Janero, chair of dock committee, Ormond Beach Main Street