THE PLAN: For Rock City Yacht Club.

  • THE PLAN: For Rock City Yacht Club.

Negotiations have been underway between the Corps of Engineers and representatives of John Burkhalter, the Little Rock businessman who wants to build a marina on the Arkansas River about a half-mile downstream from the old Rock Island railroad bridge in front of the Clinton Library.


The question is how close Burkhalter can build the Rock City Yacht Club to the river navigation channel, a question that will determine how many boats the marina can accommodate.

The Corps must approve a dredging permit for the work and also agree that the construction doesn’t present a hazard to river navigation.


Coincidentally, Burkhalter, a politically influential businessman, is tied up in another local regulatory issue. He wants to build an office building at Sixth and Woodlane. He’s been stymied so far by a Capitol Zoning District rule that limits buildings there to three stories. He wants to build a five-story building.

Mark Redder, project manager for The Holloway Firm, the engineering firm on the Rock Town Marina project, said negotiations so far have produced four reductions in the distance the proposed marina could extend into the river. These reductions have reduced the size of the marina from one capable of handling about 480 boats to around 400, a point at which the project’s economic feasibility could become questionable, he said. The marina will include a store, restaurant and fueling station.


Here’s the original notice for public comments on the project, with specs and map of location.

Here’s a compilation of public comments on the plan. To summarize: Local and state officials generally support the project as an economic boon. (A state Parks employee even said creation of way for boats to attend local events — presumably such as Riverfest — might reduce vehicular congestion.) But federal agencies had questions, as did port operators and others in commercial shipping who are concerned about safety in the shipping channel. In the beginning, the navigation and maintenance section of the Corps said “this is not a good location for a marina,” though the Corps is working to address that concern. The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife raised concerns about impact on wildlife habitat and fisheries.