Crisfield City Dock is a central point for the southernmost Eastern Shore town. Photo: Visit Somerset County

Crisfield Seeks Federal Support for Repairs to Storm-Beaten City Dock

The city of Crisfield, Md. has seen some of the worst effects of coastal storms in the Bay region in recent years, and their City Dock has suffered—so much that it’s no longer safe for crowds to stand on.

Crisfield is seeking federal assistance to restore the City Dock, which was built in the late 1800s. The dock has suffered significant deterioration and was deemed unfit to weather increasingly intense coastal storms.

In 2020, Tropical Storm Isaias left much of downtown Crisfield underwater.

John Phoebus captured this image of flooding in Crisfield when the effects of Isaias reached the Bay, two hours before high tide.

The southeastern pier is now completely unusable, and repairing just this portion of the dock is estimated to cost $212,800.

City officials have submitted a request for $2.5 million of congressionally directed spending to make the improvements necessary to save their dock. Such improvements include raising the dock a recommended eighteen inches to withstand storm surges.

Situated at the end of the town’s main road, the City Dock is a staple of Crisfield life. It provides public access to the Bay, including free use for both recreational and commercial boaters.

“The City Dock in Crisfield, Maryland is an icon, reflecting a uniquely American way of life,” Crisfield Mayor Darlene Taylor said. “The City Dock is the cultural heart of Crisfield, where visitors from across the nation and the world first come to get acquainted with this unique working waterfront town.”

Crisfield hosts a number of events at the City Dock that celebrate the rich history of Chesapeake watermen. Such events are crucial in preserving the town’s history, as well as attracting tourists to the area. According to Mayor Taylor, the annual Boat Docking Competition draws roughly 2,500 attendees each year. Other major events, like the Crisfield Soft Shell Crab Festival, have had to be relocated as the dock can no longer accommodate more than 100 people.

Beyond serving as the setting for cultural events, the Crisfield City Dock is the primary point of connection between the mainland and Smith and Tangier Islands. The loss of this port would drastically impact the residents of these islands, who rely on delivery boats for essential supplies.

“If the City Dock were to become unusable, it would be a massive disruption to the current U.S. Mail boats, which also transport medical supplies, medical personnel, and food to these islands. The local Food Lion and pharmacy deliver supplies directly to these boats,” Taylor said.

The islands also benefit economically from tourists in Crisfield, another connection which would be lost if the dock degrades completely. Compared to nearby docks, the Crisfield City Dock is a deep port that can be accessed by commercial cruise lines, the passengers of which often travel to Smith and Tangier while staying in Crisfield.

According to the mayor, 11 cruises were scheduled for this year, but all had to be canceled due to the dock’s condition. 

“This impacts the City’s economy, as the docking fees were lost, but more importantly it impacted the small business owners in the business district immediately surrounding the dock,” she said.

Fortunately, the city has already received financial support from other sources for dock restoration projects. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Waterway Improvement Fund issued a $90,000 grant specifically for the repairs needed on the southeastern pier. An application for an additional grant of $160,000 is pending.

State Senator Mary Beth Carroza has also supported the City Dock with a $100,000 bond bill to be used for project planning, particularly to increase the dock’s capacity so the city may host large events there again.

Support has also come in the form of letters from organizations including the Maryland Department of Emergency Management, Somerset County Commissioners, Greater Crisfield Action Coalition, and a number of businesses on Smith and Tangier Islands.

Locals and non-residents alike can further support the efforts to restore this significant landmark by signing the support form on the City of Crisfield website. 

“The congressionally directed spending, or an earmark, applications to Senator Cardin, Senator Van Hollen, and Congressman Harris are quite competitive,” Taylor said. “The City of Crisfield is asking for support for this project.”

To add your name to support these applications, please go to cityofcrisfield-md.gov.

-Alaina Perdon