Downtown Boatslips Open For Business
By Josh Valone
Clearwater's new downtown boatslips opened for business early Monday morning. The day marked the culmination of a long process that included a failed referendum in 2004 and the accidental loss of reclaimed water service during the construction process.
Harbormaster Bill Morris kicked off festivities by welcoming the few dozen residents and city officials who had come to witness the grand opening. He credited a "tremendous team effort" for project's success and expressed optimism that they would be a boon for the community.
Mayor Frank Hibbard and City Manager Bill Horne were the next two speakers, representing both the City of Clearwater and the many staff members who had played a key role in the project. "It is another piece of the puzzle for making downtown a very attractive place for the private sector to visit." Hibbard said, and adding, "This is a state-of-the-art facility. There is nothing like it in the Tampa Bay area."
City Manager Horne focused more on staff contributions, and his hope that the boatslips would become a valuable asset to the city, summing up his speech by proclaiming, "We want our citizens to be proud of what we have done."
Patricia Harrell, boating access coordinator for Florida Fish and Wildlife Services, was the final speaker. Harrell pointed out that the US Fish and Wildlife Service only awarded $9 million in grant money for the 2010, and the City of Clearwater had corralled $1.2 million of that for the downtown boatslips. She said to expect big returns on that investment, "lots of transient boaters, with lots of money", to be more specific.
Having heard from all speakers, it was time to open the boatslips for business. City Council members lined up with scissors to cut the oversized ribbon in unison, making the opening official. If the speeches given that morning prove accurate, the downtown boatslips will be a valuable asset to the city. Local residents, who voted down the project in a 2004 referendum, can only hope that they are right.
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