Warner's Bayou boat ramp may reopen before the Fourth of July, official says

skennedy@bradenton.comJune 22, 2013 

MANATEE -- Workers are finally finishing a complex renovation of Warner's Bayou boat ramp, hoping to reopen it before the July 4 weekend, officials said Friday.

"We've not settled on a date for a grand opening, but our goal is to have it open before the Fourth of July holiday," said Alan Lai Hipp, environmental program manager for marine resources at the Manatee County Natural Resources Department. "I was just out there this morning, everything is going well.

"But like any big project

with a lot of facets, there's a lot of little things we're taking care of," he added. "The goal is definitely before the Fourth."

Neighbors of the boat ramp at 5900 Riverview Blvd. are hearing the same message.

Sue Kinnan, who led a neighborhood protest of the county's original plans for the restoration project, is looking forward to its completion.

"I think it looks very nice," she said. "But I hope they can contain the number of people who use it; maybe some people have found other places and won't come back."

Asked if she would attend a grand opening, she replied, "I'd like to."

The re-do was originally slated to cost $728,600 and begin in March 2012, but after several well-attended public meetings in which residents vented complaints and gave suggestions, plans changed.

In January, work crews began a scaled-down renovation that was supposed to cost $490,000, but a corroded seawall collapsed unexpectedly and had to be replaced, Lai Hipp said.

That added another $106,000 to the $490,000 cost of the project, and delayed the reopening by several weeks.

"We did have a setback with the sea wall, but it turned out to be a good thing, because now we know it will be structurally sound for decades," Lai Hipp said.

The re-do is expected to lengthen the life span and functionality of the popular facility and reduce yearly maintenance needs, Lai Hipp said.The project includes an upgraded boat ramp, floating dock and fixed docks; new grassy stormwater runoff treatment areas around the perimeter of existing parking lots; parking spaces for the handicapped; and a new restroom building and fish-cleaning station.

Money for the project came from Manatee County's Boating Improvement Fund and the West Coast Inland Navigation District.

"I'm very, very pleased with it," said Lai Hipp.

"I know it's been a painful wait for a lot of people that use that ramp, but when they see what it's like, I think they'll be very, very pleased."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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