January 27, 2017
Murky future ahead for downtown Fort Myers boat ramp
By Levi Ismail
Fort Myers, FL -
The Mainsail Harborside hotel project is getting closer to breaking ground, but many worry a popular boat ramp will be left in the dust. For months the city of Fort Myers has been at odds with what to do with the Harborside Events Center.
When construction begins, the ramp and adjacent area down Edwards Dr. will be blocked off.
Mainsail development has proposed plans to create green space for an amphitheater there, but many have spoken out against it.
They say the ramp is far more valuable.
"I came this far to go here because there is nothing else," said Sandra Schmidt of North Fort Myers.
Fishing all her life, Schmidt knows how to pick her spots. Right off the boat ramp, she manages to haul in seven mullet without so much as a sweat. Now she can't imagine losing her favorite ramp.
"I don't even know where another pier and boat dock is with parking and everything," said Schmidt.
After months of searching, finding a new place for a ramp is proving to be the toughest challenge.
"The city is working to find a solution, a temporary boat ramp location. We want to make sure people have access to the river," said Kirsten O'Donnell, public information officer for the city of Fort Myers.
Construction is expected to begin in April with renderings released as soon as February. As the clock ticks, the frustration grows.
"If they don't put in a new ramp close, it makes it that much harder for us to use the water," said David Dutton of Fort Myers.
Until April, the ramp will remain open. A silver lining for some, another lost treasure for others.
"Just like Lee County always has, they build it nice and then they muck it all up," said Schmidt.
Months before Mainsail came along, the original plan was to move the aging boat ramp down the river, to potentially add more modern amenities like bathrooms.