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Company plans to manage Napa dock, offer water taxis to San Francisco
Napa River

Company plans to manage Napa dock, offer water taxis to San Francisco

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A provider of water taxi services crisscrossing the San Francisco Bay hopes to take its boats north to Napa – and take over daily operations of the city’s downtown dock.

The proposal by Tideline Marine Group would place the company in charge of managing the 176-foot-long dock, which opened in 2013 on the Napa River’s west bank outside the Riverfront retail and housing complex. In addition, Tideline would launch an on-demand taxi service ferrying Napans to piers in San Francisco, Oakland and other Bay Area destinations.

The offer, one of five submitted to the city for commercial activities at the Main Street boat dock, cleared its first hurdle Wednesday night with its approval by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. Tideline also needs the support of the City Council – which may vote on the contract July 19 – and a review by the State Lands Commission before it can become the Napa dock master and launch its water taxi service, which could start running in early 2017.

Napa and Tideline have been in negotiations over the past year, according to city officials who have sought to add activities at the lightly used dock to boost water recreation and lure more visitors into downtown. Parks staff first disclosed the talks in March.

Three boats-for-hire owned by Tideline would serve Napa passengers heading to two dozen Bay Area destinations including San Francisco, Oakland, Vallejo, Berkeley, Sausalito and Tiburon, according to company president Nathan Nayman. Two of the vessels can hold 43 passengers and a third accommodates 22.

In addition to visiting established hubs like the San Francisco Ferry Building, Tideline also would likely carry passengers to Giants baseball games at AT&T Park, a waterfront stadium famous for receiving fans by ferry, according to company founder and CEO Taylor Lewis. Most riders would pay about $35 for a round trip, with discounts possible for Napa residents, Nayman told the parks commission.

Most water taxi service would be offered from the spring to Thanksgiving weekend for weather and tide reasons, but Tideline could carry chartered groups in the winter months, said Lewis.

Under the agreement, Tideline would oversee subleases for other commercial activities at the dock. The city’s Parks and Recreation Services Department has received proposals from three companies to provide services ranging from renting kayaks and solar-powered boats to on-call yachts, and Gondola Servizio – which offered gondola tours from an earlier downtown slip removed in 2006 for flood control work – has offered to return its boats to the Napa River, according to parks director John Coates.

Earlier, city staff also declared themselves open to allowing lunch and dinner cruises to launch from the downtown dock.

A kiosk on a 10-by-10-foot section of the Riverfront promenade would be the ticket booth for all riverside activities. The booth could be moved out of the way in case of bad weather, flood warnings or the end of Tideline services.

As the dock master, Tideline would be responsible for the dock’s safety and security, cooperation with Napa Police and the U.S. Coast Guard, and staffing the kiosk for at least two hours a day, seven days a week.

Napa would collect 20 percent of gross revenue from dock activities; the city’s share would not include water taxi receipts for the first two years but would take in those funds starting with the third year.

Coates forecast an annual profit to the city of $2,000 to $8,000 in each of the first two years, on revenue of $50,000 to $80,000. The profit should reach $8,000 to $16,000 in later years on revenue of $80,000 to $120,000, he told parks commissioners.

Progress toward water-based activities comes in the wake of the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to resume dredging the Napa River for the first time since 1998. Corps officials have said a contract to clear 13 miles of the waterway from Napa down to Vallejo will be awarded July 1, with work scheduled for August to October.

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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