Marina Rowena, Part 1

Cumberland to welcome new neighbor in 2019

September 2018 Feature By Brady L. Kay

For the first time in nearly a half century there will be an all-new recreational marina on the shores of Lake Cumberland in Kentucky and there is a core group of enthusiasts who can hardly wait. The excitement begins with business partners Tony Sloan and Tom Allen whose vision for what they want Marina Rowena to offer the community has been crystal clear since day one on this project that has been years in the making.

The marina will be near the original Rowena ferry crossing in Russell County, on the deep lower end of the lake, about four miles upstream from Wolf Creek Dam, and the lease covers 407 acres of land and water. The initial lease term is for 25 years, with optional renewals for another 25 years, according to Lee Roberts, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It took nearly 11 years to gain approval for this marina, according to General Manager Dave Dyson who has been on site full-time since April of this year.

“The hard-working people you see around here are the marina,” emphasized Dyson during our visit back in May. “The thrust of this right now is the local community and the employees we’ve been able to bring on. The vast experience these folks have and the dedication and their hard work have been unbelievable to see and it’s been going on a lot longer than I’ve been part of it. For a year and half these guys have labored and toiled and put together what’s here now, but there’s a lot more left to do.”

Dream Team

Dyson has been working shoulder-to-shoulder with the dedicated full-time crew made up of craftsmen including Phillip Irwin, Larry Cane, Darren Mason, Steve Burchett, Michael Guffey, Steve Booher, Keenan Shelton, Aaron Neevius, Jeff Avery, Jason Hughes and Brandon Cooksey who specialize in welding, carpentry work, earth work and anything else they’re asked to do.

Included in the management team is Rod Parrish who is the head of construction as well as Pat Waggoner who will serve as the marina’s harbor master. Both have extensive backgrounds in marine business. Partner Tom Allen has been VP and general manager of Sunset Marina on Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee for over 25 years. Sloan is in his early 80s, yet remains very active while as the primary owner, leading with what Dyson refers to as old school leadership.

“It’s clear that Tony, a long-time Clinton County resident, is not in this for the money, but rather he wants this marina to help build the community that he dearly loves,” explains Dyson. “And like Tony, we’re all hoping this marina will benefit everyone in this region.”

“The marina is expected to boost visitation on the lake, which is an important part of the local economy,” added Penny Stearns, a member of the Clinton County Tourism Commission. “I think it will be a great benefit to us.”

All In

The process of bringing Dyson onboard to serve as the general manager was something that began years ago, although at the time he didn’t realize it.

“I talked with Tony years earlier when he had just sold Grider Hill Marina,” recalls Dyson. “So that’s when I made it known to him that I was interested in running a marina.”

Looking back now it makes perfect sense that when Sloan started looking for someone to oversee this new marina, he was quick to give Dyson a call. Although Dave and his wife Joy have been weekend regulars at other marinas as well as seen out enjoying time on Lake Cumberland for decades, they’re actually not locals. In 1981, Dyson, who used to live in Columbus, Ohio, made his first trip to Cumberland. The couple met at the lake in 1993 and were married aboard their boat at Seventy-Six Falls in 1995. For the next 25 years they continued to make the same 600-mile round trip each weekend just to experience the unique lifestyle only possible on Lake Cumberland.

With this new position as general manager at Marina Rowena, the Dysons were able to sell their Ohio home and make this area their permanent residence. In fact, in order to be closer to the project, the couple has been living on their houseboat at the marina this summer with plans to build a home nearby.

Click here to go to Part 2 of the Marina Rowena story.

For updates or for more information on Marina Rowena, visit, follow them on Facebook or email Dyson at

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