New Life for an Old Marina
By Irene Luck
The sole marina in Louisa County, which has been standing vacant for nearly a decade, is getting new life breathed into it thanks to Mike and JoAnn Vallerie.
The couple, who were living in Maryland, decided to visit the Lake Anna area in September 2015 and accidentally discovered the hidden treasure sitting quietly on Pleasants Landing Road on the eastern end of the lake. Around that time the couple owned a successful semi-trailer rental business in Maryland and weren’t looking to sell it, but received an offer too good to pass up, Mike Vallerie said. As new retirees, they started taking weekend excursions and decided to enjoy a long weekend at Lake Anna and see what all the hoopla was about.“We had heard about Lake Anna and decided to take a long weekend trip and see what the area was all about,” Vallerie said. “We stumbled across the old Lake Anna Beach Marina as we were driving around. I’m one of those guys who see the diamond in the rough.”What they also found was that there were few amenities in the area. They weren’t pleased with their accommodations and were surprised at the lack of suitable places to stay, eat, and visit in the area.“We were looking for more than what we found, like nice restaurants,” he said. “It is a beautiful lake, but I wouldn’t want to live here permanently. There’s really not much here to do but the lake activities.”However, in December 2015 they decided to purchase the commercial property which contains 12 acres including Dominion Energy’s easement along the shoreline. The marina was originally developed by the late Frank Pleasants nearly 40 years ago after the lake came in. Pleasants Landing Marina had become a popular recreational spot on what was once the founder’s family farm. The property was later sold to Ed’s Marina out of Ashland and ultimately to the Averetts, who renamed it Lake Anna Beach Marina. Nonetheless, the business never enjoyed first had.
When Vallerie bought the defunct business, he decided to go back to the original name.“There is another business called ‘Lake Anna Marina’ operating on the lake as well, and I found there was some confusion between the two,” he said. “And, I found that most people still referred to it as ‘Pleasants Landing,’ so it made sense to me to return to the original name.”Because no legitimate activity had occurred on the site for about 10 years, vandalism and illicit activity was rampant and took its toll on the buildings on site as well as the property itself. Vallerie said he was shocked at how the valuable resource had gone to waste for all those years.
“Every window in the main building was broken out and most of the glass doors as well,” Mike said. “There was crude graffiti destruction in the buildings and severe erosion of the seawall and docks.” Weather damage was also an issue to the main building, where water had leaked through the incorrectly installed roof and down into the walls, damaging the sheetrock and insulation. “The insulation was wet and had slid down in the walls, making a great home for insects and rodents,” he said. “I literally had to remove all the sheetrock and put in new insulation and then rebuild the walls.”
Vallerie also had to replace the windows and sills as well as the doors. Even some of these had been removed from the building, leaving the electric wiring exposed and dangling. The small home on the property, which had been under renovation by the previous owners and left incomplete, was vandalized as well. Vallerie has been working hard to reclaim the property and bring it back to a useable condition. In addition to the large main building and smaller house, the facility also includes a
boat launch area, picnic shelter, and beach area. He has a plethora of ideas for how the property should look and what amenities should be offered. However, Vallerie has been spending most of the past 18 months waiting on county permits while trying to make the facility appealing and inhabitable. Right now, the boat launch area, picnic are open, and he does have non-ethanol gas for sale. Wake Edger’s is currently operating a store and handling boat rentals at Pleasants Landing. Owners Larry and Denise Smith still have the Wake Edger’s location under Tim’s Lake Anna Restaurant at the upper end of the lake as well. At Pleasants Landing, they rent pontoon and motor boats. They also operate the store – which includes water sports equipment and snacks – inside the main newly-renovated building. A mechanic is now on site as well for boat repairs. There is also a boat storage facility at the property, although Vallerie said only a few vessels are currently stored on site.
The main building has space for a sit-down restaurant, but that requires additional permits and upgrades which Vallerie has not tackled yet. However, he would like to see someone open an ice cream parlor at the property, which would initially be located in the main building. “I’d like to get the house on the property cleared for a small ice cream shop,” Vallerie said. “My goal is to have someone operate one there eventually, since there is a small kitchen and space for the shop. You don’t need much room to serve ice cream since people take it and go, and we could put some tables or seating outside on the grass.” Right now, Vallerie is working to solve easement and permit issues with the county related to the small home. Vallerie eventually hopes to be able to host events of all sorts at the property – day events such as arts and crafts shows, festivals, and car shows among others.
He would also like to be able to hold concerts on the stage on the property, but those plans have also been slowed by county permits. “I want to give families a place to come on a Saturday, enjoy the lake and its beauty, and make memories with their own children,” he said. Visitors can bring their own picnic lunches and use the pavilion or picnic tables set up on the property, but they also must bring a portable grill to cook on since he doesn’t have any available right now. Currently, Vallerie’s focus is to get the marina’s existing amenities operating with county approval. But, he has a vision for what he’d like to accomplish at Pleasants Landing Marina in the next three years.
Part one is nearly complete – he has the occupancy permit for the main building and has the store [Wake Edger’s] open; the launch and storage facility is ready for guests; the boat rentals are available; and he is hoping to have a mechanic on site soon for marine services. His next goal is to receive permission to hold events on the property and to secure an event management company who will plan and operate those gatherings, hopefully nearly year-round. He would like to see that accomplished by next year“ T
he main hold-up for this is the inability to hold evening concerts with enough frequency to make it worthwhile,” he said. “Once or twice a summer isn’t enough to draw the interest of an event management company or make it feasible to stage other day events along with the concerts. ”What Vallerie would really like to see is an event, such as a festival or car show, held during the day that concludes with a nice concert in the evening. Currently his legal team is trying to determine if this is a by-right use or requires a Conditional Use Permit from the county. Vallerie’s third goal is to get the restaurant up and running by spring of 2019, and he is looking for an interested party who would lease the space to do so.
“Pleasants Landing Marina had such a great reputation back in its early days, and so did Mr. [Frank] Pleasants,” Vallerie said. “Everyone who knew him talks with such love and respect about his business savvy and his kind ways, and I want to bring that kind of reputation back to the ‘renewed’ Pleasants Landing Marina.” Pleasants Landing Marina is located at 349 Pleasants Landing Road, Bumpass. The boat launch facility is open 24 hours a day, and the park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wake Edger’s is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. as well. Vallerie can be reached by emailing him at email@example.com or calling the marina at 540-872-4180.