The City of Detroit sits on a major waterway connected to a whole other country. Not just that, but the water connects the city to other port cities like Cleveland and Buffalo.
Native Detroiter and operator of Riverside Marina Jason McGuire believes the boating culture can grow and thrive, especially among Detroit’s Black residents.
McGuire is one of the only Black marina operators in the U.S.
He began boating at the tender age of 18, fixing his first boat with a little elbow grease. While it was fulfilling, McGuire says that like most Detroiters, being on the water wasn’t a comfortable transition initially.
“I was scared, but once I became more and more comfortable, getting more and more experienced, going out on the water more and more, it became like second nature to me. In fact, I believe if I missed a day or summer without going on the water, it definitely hurts my soul now.”
McGuire has operated the property since 2012, helping to pull the marina out of bankruptcy. He leads 32 employees and continues to create a lane for Black Detroiters in the industry.
Riverside Marina, originally known as Harbor Hill Marina, was a vision of former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young and Porterfield Wilson.
Wilson was a larger-than-life General Motors and Buick dealer in the city during the ’70s and ’80s. His main goal was to build an inclusive community along the Detroit River that embraced Black boating life.
McGuire hopes to continue that legacy. Currently, opportunities are increasing for a more inclusive boating life in the city of Detroit.
“Right now, the Detroit cycle boat has actually created an opportunity where people can actually get on the water on tours, and I tell you, any way that you can get involved, go get on the water, you’re gonna enjoy yourself.”
McGuire says fostering the next generation of Black boaters is one of his main goals.
“We had some children come in, they learned how to swim. And we also had a group of kids build a schooner, a small, small craft. They actually put it in the water this past Friday. They’re going to be painting it [soon] over here at Riverside. And these are all inner-city youth that are doing this.”
Photo credit: David Rudolph
Listen: Black marina operator talks small business and expanding Detroit’s boating scene.