Coastal Angler – October 2016
TAKE ACTION NOW TO PREVENT CENTENNIAL PARK BOAT RAMP CLOSING
The Fort Myers City Council wants to remove the boat ramp and trailer parking in Centennial Park opposite the Harborside Event Center. The City plans to break ground for a new downtown hotel located between Harborside and the water retention basin. The City wants to use the boat trailer parking as a staging area for this major construction project. After the hotel construction, the City signals that it may put in an amphitheater on the staging area site.
Boat owners and citizens blocked previous efforts to close the boat ramp. But the City Council appears determined to remove the ramp this time in its quest to accommodate riverfront developers at public expense. The City Council says the boat ramp has outlived its usefulness and is rarely used. If you are one of the ramp users that has waited for over an hour to put your boat in or take it out, the City Council needs to hear from you. In addition to recreational boaters, commercial fishermen and law enforcement use the boat ramp regularly. Finally, the boat ramp can provide a critical access point in the event of a catastrophe. In the days and weeks after Hurricane Charley hit Punta Gorda, owing to the downed power lines and impassable roads, officials used the boat ramp to access the water and conduct rescue and security duties.
Closing the boat ramp proves contrary to the Waterfronts Florida Partnership Program whereby the City committed to maintaining traditional working waterfronts. Moreover, it contradicts the River District development plan prepared by Andres Duany that calls for maintaining water-dependent uses — specifically boat ramps. Public access to the water represents a core principle of Florida land use planning. We cannot afford to give this valuable public resource away.
If the City proceeds with its plans to close the boat ramp, it needs to have a new boat ramp in place before closing the Centennial Park ramp. This will take time and money and requires immediate attention. The permitting can take over a year, and land purchase and construction costs could total over $1.6 million. The City needs to dust off and update its 1998 Boat Ramp Study.
Please call or e-mail Mayor Randy Henderson (, 239-321-7020) and Councilman Mike Flanders (239-321-7004, ), as the boat ramp is in Flander’s ward. Let them know this is a bad idea. Better yet, show up at a City Council hearing and speak out. Time to organize and make yourself heard.