Better Launching in the Future
By Anne McKay Garris
The only launch ramp located on Clearwater Beach is beside the Clearwater Beach Recreation Center, at the East End of Bay Esplanade. It's been there a long time, and it's always been an adventure to use. I remember when my Daddy and I launched his little boat there; we worked on opposite sides of the boat and constantly reminded one another to be "very careful." Both of us had experienced the fact that just one second of moving without your weight clearly over your moving foot would land you on some very hard cement. The constantly wet cement of the ramp was slick as ice.
Another challenge that our small boat never had to meet was the drop off, even with the seawall, at the end of the ramp. Nevertheless, more than once we watched in dismay as trailer wheels of large boats, carelessly launched, plopped off the end of the ramp, leaving the trailer resting on the cement, rather than the wheels.
It was a popular launching spot, all the same, especially after they installed a floating dock where passengers could access the boat easily and where waiting boats could tie up.
Recently, a very large boat trailer went off the end of the ramp and the effort to pull it out did damage to the aging cement. Repairing the ramp was complicated by the fact that a local resident had recently purchased the land beside the seawall from the State of Florida and the City could not restore the ramp because they did not own the land.
Now, however, the owner has given the city a permanent easement to the underwater land from the ramp to the southern end of the sea wall, and Clearwater has received a Boating Grant from the State. A new ramp has been designed and permitted. It will go out for bids at the end of March and the bids should be returned by June 2nd. According to Mike Quillen, Director of Clearwater's Engineering Department, work should start on the new ramp "right after Labor Day."
The delay in time is made necessary by the fact that the small boats that can use the ramp in its present condition, if they do it carefully, will want to be using it during the summer months.
Asked if the new ramp will have a less slick surface, Mr. Quillen answered, "Hopefully the new ramp will have a better surface."
Although the ramp will still end even with the seawall, there will be a "toe wall" to prevent the scouring that finally toppled the old ramp.
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