A possible boat launch is coming to the Riverside Community Center in Fort Myers –

Downtown Fort Myers lost its boat launch circa 2017 to the Luminary Hotel development, along with other developments occurring in the area. City Councilman Fred Burson tried to make a deal with Lee County at the time, which ended up failing. Now, Burson is proceeding with the installation of a public boat launch at the Riverside Community Center.

“It would give the town a boat launch within the city limits, it would provide a service to residents, and it would help kick-start development on this side of town on the river,” he said. declared. “It’s probably one of the nicest riverfronts we have there. We just need something to start with.

The center is located on the river in Council Member Teresa Watkins Brown’s Ward 1, providing toilet facilities, as well as available land nearby that the city can acquire for parking.

Councilman Johnny Streets echoed Burson’s sentiments about a boat launch that sparked interest in the area, which proved rare in East Fort Myers.

There used to be a boat launch in the center, remnants of which visitors can still see.

“When you have the riverfront and you have the water frontage, you have all the ingredients to develop this area that will appeal to people coming from Palm Beach Boulevard,” Streets said. “I think it will tell people that while you may have lost something on this side, there is something that will be cutting edge on the other side.”

Installing a boat ramp can also open the doors to another marina or restaurant, which Streets says is very much needed on this side of town, as few options are directly available to this part of the community.

Other council members, including Darla Bonk and Liston Bochette, supported the idea, with Bonk saying adding a new boat ramp is the most asked question she gets from her constituents. from Ward 6 outside of their district’s issues, showing the demand for a new boat launch from the community as a whole.

City council and the city manager have met with the state, which has offered to relocate some of its facilities and help secure the necessary permits to move the project forward, Bochette said.

“The ducks are in the line,” Bochette said. “There are properties that could be acquired by the city, which must be used for parking, and it is a source of income for the city, so it is an investment. It is a ready-to-use project. »

The city manager and staff were tasked by council to prepare a presentation and research options, with city manager Marty Lawing presenting two preliminary options.

One potential option is to place the ramp on property the city already owns, with the downside of overlaying the project on existing playground equipment and picnic shelters, which can be relocated if the site is chosen. . The other option is to put the ramp on the property just off the center, which the city does not own, requiring the property to be acquired.

Council member Watkins Brown said riverfront access is important to residents of his district.

“One of the beautiful things about Fort Myers and the East Fort Myers area is the beautiful access and scenery of the Caloosahatchee River,” she said. “The character of this community is magnificent and must be maintained. If the community is supportive of the idea and we can make the land issues work, I think that boat launch would be a plus for them.

Jill E. Washington