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Harrisville Michigan Harbor gas shack

Folks visiting the Harrisville Harbor of Refuge last week had to do a double take as the gas pump shack seemed to vanish overnight.

According to Harbormaster, Jim Ferguson, the old gas shack was dismantled to begin work on the third phase of a four-phase grant project the harbor began two years ago. This third phase includes removal of the gas shack and decking and replacing it with an up-to-code building.

Ferguson explained the old building was past its prime and needed replacing. However, he and the harbor commission would not consider an option for replacement which didn’t have the same saltbox roof and quaintness of the old structure.

harbor gas shack
Workers dismantle the structure. Photo courtesy of Jim Ferguson.

“The saltbox roof is iconic to this harbor and we didn’t want to change that. We are sticking with the grey and blue theme like we always had. The new building will have grey siding, but instead of blue asphalt shingles it will have a blue metal roof. It will look very similar, just new,” Ferguson said.

The new building will be slightly smaller than the old one and it will be placed about one foot north of the former structure. Ferguson explained the old building encroached beyond the safety zone of the pumps and was grandfathered in before the safety zone code was changed.

He explained a few changes will enhance the appearance of the building. The large fuel safety sign, which was attached to the roof of the old building, will be moved lower on the dock for boaters to see. A new “Welcome to Harrisville” sign will go up on the shack to greet all coming to the harbor.

Ferguson explained a surprise came during the dismantling of the old fuel shack when a large hole in the decking under a cupboard was exposed. “I didn’t know what the hole was. At first, I thought maybe they went ice fishing from the deck.

“What we found out was this used to be an official NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Lake Huron water height station. The level they used was hung inside the gas shack and dropped through the hole in the floor. As the float went up and down, they could open the cupboard and see the height of the lake level. No one of recent history even knew it was there,” Ferguson said.

This third phase, contracted by Meridan Contracting Services out of Alpena, also includes new sewage, fuel delivery, and potable water pumping. In addition, three 45-foot finger piers and two 30-foot floating docks will be replaced.

The additional finger piers included in phase three will not increase the size of the harbor but will give boaters more slips than they had last summer. “When we opened last summer, we didn’t have anything on the north dock (because of phase two renovations). This year we will be able to offer 14 more slips,” Ferguson said.

Also included in phase three will be the addition of new Wi-Fi receivers which will offer boaters reliable Internet access throughout the harbor. According to Ferguson, in the past, boaters have complained about no cell phone service and terrible Wi-Fi He is hopeful with the addition of the City of Harrisville’s new cell tower last year and the new Wi-Fi receivers, boaters visiting the harbor will not have that issue.

Ferguson expects the work to be completed before the harbor opens for the season on June 1 just in time for the Lincoln Lions’ annual fishing tournament. He explained the harbor has made a special offer to Lion tournament boaters to purchase a slip rental for one night during the tournament and the harbor will give them two additional nights free that weekend.

The harbor is looking forward to this summer season and Ferguson said three crew members from last summer will return and he has hired three new employees, two graduating seniors from Alcona High School and one Oscoda High School student who will be a senior next year.

Ferguson explained all plans to begin phase four, the final phase of the harbor, look good for next year but they are still waiting on funding. “I see no reason to suspect they will stop doing this project in its last phase. I expect it will be fully funded. With a little luck we could be starting on that this fall,” Ferguson said.

He said the plans for phase four, which includes dismantling all old finger piers and putting new ones in their place, has been submitted to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and from there will go to grant funding review.

All work from phase two has been completed including the new public gathering platform deck which can be utilized by the public to watch the sunrise or can be rented for parties or weddings. Currently, there is no outdoor furniture on the platform, but Ferguson hopes in the future they will have something.

“We encourage all to come out, bring a chair and watch the sun come up while enjoying your coffee or bring your lunch and use the platform. That’s what it is there for,” Ferguson said.

The Harrisville Harbor of Refuge is located off Lake Street, north of Main Street in Harrisville. For more information on renting boat slips or the platform deck, call (989) 724-5712.

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