Troubled city's marina project gets national attention; Work progresses slowly

By Chuck Weber

PAHOKEE, FL (WFLX)-It landed in the New York Times this past weekend-- the City of Pahokee. A Times reporter wrote about the small, impoverished town and its marina and campground, on the shores of Lake Okeechobee.

City leaders have seen the marina as way to help the Western Palm Beach County community. "We want the marina to enhance our city and to stimulate growth," stated Mayor Wayne Whitaker. "If you're going from the East Coast to the West Coast, you can come through Lake Okeechobee and you can stop in our marina."

After being wasted by a hurricane five years ago, the marina boasts new slips, a store, and a new pool and lounge for campers.

But it's taken much longer than expected to get this far. There's still no eating establishment, and only a handful of boats fill the brand new slips.

"It gets awful frustrating," admitted Mayor Whitaker. "But you know, you can't give up, you've got to keep on striving."

The mayor says the city has obtained funding and permits to do much-needed maintenance dredging of a channel running next to the marina. Once opened up, more big boats are expected to pass through Pahokee.

The company that runs the chain of Loggerhead Marinas on the coasts, has bought into the public-private Pahokee marina project. The enterprise is now called Lake Okeechobee Outpost. Managers says they expect work to begin soon on a bar, and construction of a restaurant might also commence in 2010.

"I've been here all my life and it's the best I've ever seen it look," said Pahokee resident Lavon Jackson. What about the prospect of yachts and high end tourists coming to Pahokee? "I think it would be nice," said Jackson. "There will be more jobs out here, besides field work."