When I was young, it was pretty common to have to bribe a Chicago Park District Harbormaster in Chicago, as well as make a visit to your Alderman's office in order to get a mooring. More than a few of them went to sing-sing for these practices.
Of course, something like this is a turn-off, as honest people don't care to be complicit in a slimy crime and overpay for a service needlessly. More than a few people back then told me what they did to get their mooring.
Fast forward to today. Since then, the Chicago Park District put the management of all harbors out to bid, and hired a California For-Profit company called Westrec to manage all harbors. An evolution occurred where Westrec began removing the mooring buoys that required boat owners to either have to row out in their personal dinghy to get their boats, or take a tender service from shore. They replaced many of these mooring buoys with docks and slips (with gated access), with water, electric, Wi-Fi, and cable TV service.
Some even have outlets to pump out the head holding tank at each slip. Westrec also put in showers and restrooms on shore or floating buildings. Parking has been improved in many harbors as well, but will continue to be a challenge for your guests who have to pay the Daley debacle parking rates - have your friends carpool if at all possible.
The quality of moorings in Chicago has improved dramatically, while also allowing more boats to fit into most harbors. In 2012 the Chicago Park District with Westrec opened the new 31st Street Harbor, adding 1,000 slips to the 5,000 already in the other harbors.
When you add in the economy to the timing of this new harbor, most harbors in Chicago have many open slips, apparently close to 1,000 are available. While Westrec and the Chicago Park District are unabashed at increasing mooring rates each year, in 2013 they realized that the golden goose can lay only so many eggs and had to back off the steep increases they have been doing.
The real good news is, that getting a mooring hasn't required paying off anyone, or making a trip to an Alderman's office in many years. What you see for the mooring rates on the Chicago Park District's website, is what you will pay. There's no more of the sweat factor to have your boat conveniently in Chicago.
Additionally, when the Chicago Park District managed the harbors, State Law gave them full immunity. So if your boat broke away in a storm and was wrecked (their equipment failed, not your cleat or mooring line), the Chicago Park District told you that you were on your own for the damages, crane for wreck removal, and oil, gasoline or diesel clean-up.
Now with Westrec in the mix and responsible for the maintenance, the government immunity does not apply to Westrec, and they have been cooperative with damages to moored boats when their equipment has failed.
This has been a great step forward for the citizens. If you have been holding back because of the old rumors, don't. Get your boat in a Chicago harbor and enjoy the biggest park in Chicago - Lake Michigan.
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