Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Boaters Ramp It Up; Palm Valley's Entrance to Waterway Reopens

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Boaters Ramp It Up; Palm Valley's Entrance to Waterway Reopens

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon, Shorelines staff writer

What a difference a week makes at the Palm Valley boat ramp.

Boaters are happy again, now that their vessels' hulls aren't being scraped while backing into the Intracoastal Waterway.

The ramp, which opened in May with too steep an angle, was closed for a week but reopened Wednesday after St. Johns County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished replacing the flawed entrance. The ramp is on the east side of the waterway, just south of the new Palm Valley bridge.

"It's like night and day. It's unbelievable," Dale Little said of the change. He launched his 23-foot skiff from the ramp the day it was re-opened; he gave the replacement ramp "two thumbs up."

Many boaters had foregone using the entrance to the waterway, and others had difficulty negotiating the ramp with their boat trailers and could put their vessels in only at high tide.

"I was afraid to back my van down that thing," said Little, an avid boater in Palm Valley for 15 years who owns Palm Valley Bait & Tackle Shop near the ramp. "I used to go over to a friend's house and launch because I was afraid" of the ramp's former steep incline.

The county and the corps spent a combined $30,000 to replace the facility along with boat ramp contractor Tedder Boat Ramps of Kissimmee.

Dan Weimer, director of county parks and recreation, said the ramp has been brought up to par.

"That ought to make the boaters happy," he said.

The slope was changed from a 25-degree to a 16-degree angle, allowing for an easier, more gradual entrance into the water, Weimer said. The width of the ramp also was expanded, from 12 feet, 8 inches to 15 feet, 7 inches.

"They did what they said they were going to do," Little said. "You can launch anything up to 26 feet in that thing now. I think the folks that come down to launch their bigger boats are going to feel more comfortable. That other ramp was just too intimidating."

With more boats will come more business for the Palm Valley Bait & Tackle Shop, which nearly was wiped out when a nearby boat slip, the only public access point for boaters in Palm Valley, closed for about two years during the bridge construction. …

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