By Mike Lednovich
The Community Redevelopment Area Advisory Board (CRAAB) will discuss the merits of closing the city’s public boat ramp next to the Atlantic Seafood Building in order to increase parking by 34 spaces.
The question of closing the boat ramp to increase parking was introduced by Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Chip Ross at CRAAB’s meeting Wednesday evening.
Ross said the idea to shut down the city boat ramp and have boaters use Nassau County’s Dee Dee Bartels boat ramp came from an email exchange with Joe Blanchard, chair of the city’s Marina Advisory Board.
“I thought, there’s two boat ramps. One at Dee Dee Bartels and one here. The county boat ramp has lots of parking, lots of bathrooms and so why don’t we just close down the boat ramp here and just use that (the county boat ramp)? He (Joe Blanchard) thought that was a good idea,” Ross told CRAAB members in starting the discussion. The Bartels ramp is about three miles away from the city ramp, reached via 14th Street.
Ross said the email exchange with Blanchard included that by eliminating the boat trailer parking for people using the city boat ramp, the city would increase parking by 34 spaces.
“I’m not for it and I’m not against it, it’s an interesting idea and I wondered what you guys (CRAAB members) thought,” Ross said.
“Excellent idea,” answered CRAAB member David Cook Jr. He then asked about the status of the city’s “Big P” grant under the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regarding the boat ramp..
Ross said the requirements of the grant were about to expire.
CRAAB Chair Lisa Finkelstein asked about the current status of the boat ramp. “We need more information to talk about this,” she said.
Interim City Manager Charlie George said plans are in place to replace the boat ramp and add adjoining floating docks.
George said eliminating the boat ramp would also create another 12 parking spaces at that location in addition to the 34 spaces in the parking lot.
“By the way, this is his (Ross) idea, not mine,” George said.
Ross added, “It’s not my idea, it’s Joe Blanchard’s.”
Ross was referencing a Feb. 3 email from Blanchard that said, “The only plus that the city boat ramp has is that it is in a protected basin. If the county could improve the Dee Dee Bartels boat ramp to provide more protection, then the elimination of the City Boat Ramp would be a good solution. This is just my opinion and there may be other reasons to keep that I’m unaware of.”
CRAAB member Jenny Schaffer thought the concept was interesting.
“I’m sure there’s going to be some pushback. Living down there as long as I did, I’d see it being used by fishermen in the morning,” she said. “Every time I go to the north end (boat ramp) it’s always empty.”
CRAAB members asked how many boaters use the city boat ramp on a daily basis.
Ross said the city used a traffic counter strip several years ago to measure boat ramp usage. He said the findings could be made availabe to CRAAB.
CRAAB member Greg Roland said the idea merits “a good, hard look at.”
Finkelstein asked George if it would be “a terrible inconvenience” for boaters to use Dee Dee Bartels.
“When this (idea of closing the boat ramp) comes to the public, you’re going to hear that,” George said.
Potential closing of the boat ramp will be discussed at CRAAB’s meeting in March.