June 5 through 13 is National Fishing and Boating Week, a celebration highlighting the importance of recreational boating and fishing to our nation. Using settlement funding to implement restoration projects that improve boating access, the Florida Trustee Implementation Group is making valuable contributions to the recreational boating community within the State of Florida.
The "Strategically Provided Boat Access Along Florida's Gulf Coast" project was approved as part of the 2014 Phase III Early Restoration Plan and has been implemented by the Florida Trustee Implementation Group. The project has the goal of enhancing and/or increasing recreational boating and fishing opportunities which falls under the Provide and Enhance Recreational Opportunities restoration type (PDF, 405 pages).
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is the implementing trustee for the project and was approved to use $3.2 million to improve existing facilities at six locations, including:
- City of St. Marks
- City of Parker
- City of Port St. Joe
- City of Mexico Beach
- Panama City
- Walton County at Lafayette Creek
Five of the six components of this project were completed by 2018. The sixth component, Walton County at Lafayette Creek, was terminated at the request of the Walton Board of County Commissioners due to costs.
Since completion, monitoring visits were conducted twice a year for two years. The reports from these visits indicated a very positive reception from the public for the enhanced facilities. Cumulatively, around 500 visitors were estimated to have used the improved boat ramps and docks on the days of the monitoring visits.
“FWC is committed to increasing recreational boating access in Florida and conserving natural resources,” said Major Robert Beaton, FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section Leader. “The reinvestment of settlement funding to improve existing facilities results in safer, more accessible ramps and docks for the public and helps preserve these resources for the future. National Fishing and Boating Week is an opportunity to encourage everyone to explore and enjoy Florida’s many public boating and fishing opportunities.”
Specific improvements to the boating facilities, include:
City of St. Marks Boat Ramp Improvements: Improving the existing City of St. Marks boat ramp, including adding a boarding dock to the one-lane boat ramp.
City of Parker, Earl Gilbert Dock and Boat Ramp Improvements: Improving the existing Earl Gilbert boat ramp facility in the City of Parker, including improving the existing dock and expanding the existing parking.
City of Port St. Joe, Frank Pate Boat Ramp Improvements: Improving the existing Frank Pate boat ramp in the City of Port St. Joe, including constructing multiple timber docks along the shore, improving the existing seawalls, adding rub rail to the step downs, and replacing the concrete at the top of the ramp.
City of Mexico Beach Marina Project: Improving the existing Mexico Beach Canal Park marina in the City of Mexico Beach, including improving the boardwalk dock with a concrete surface and increasing the width, removing and replacing 18 existing finger piers, and replacing of the existing retaining wall.
Panama City St. Andrews Marina Docking Facility Expansions: Improving the existing St. Andrews Marina docking facility in Panama City, including adding three boat slips, replacing a fixed wooden dock with a concrete floating dock, and replacing a weather-damaged dock north of the boat ramp with a floating dock.
For more information on how the Gulf Restoration effort is improving outdoor recreation access and restoring the region’s natural resources visit the Restoration Areas portion of the Gulf Spill Restoration webpage.