The wait appears to be just about over for anglers and boaters who have missed being able to use Fort Hamer Park since January.
About $1 million in park improvement projects should be completed by July 29 with the park reopening to the public the first or second week of August, said Tom Yarger, manager of the Manatee County Construction Services Division.
Park upgrades at 1605 Fort Hamer Road include a turn-around loop to aid parking, additional parking spaces, security lights, sidewalks, stormwater improvements, and a plaza between the boat house and restrooms.
Mark Stukey, owner of Ray’s Canoe Hideaway, 1289 Hagle Park Road, often hears from boaters on the river, asking about the status of the park.
They have been dying for Fort Hamer Park to reopen. It’s one of their favorite spots in the county.
“They have been dying for Fort Hamer Park to reopen,” Stukey said . “It’s one of their favorite spots in the county.”
Although most of the park was closed during the construction project, the boat house and floating dock remained accessible.
In 2011, an $825,000 training facility was built for competitive rowers, attracting the nation’s top collegiate rowing teams, as well as high school teams from Manatee County.
“It went as well as we could have expected,” Yarger said of the project. “It came in on time and on budget.”
As an alternative to Fort Hamer during the construction project, Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources staff recommended boaters use the Braden River launch at 3020 Manatee Ave. E., or the Highland Shores boat ramp at 353 Shore Drive in Ellenton.
An even larger construction project next to the park, the $32.69 million Fort Hamer Bridge project, including improvements to Fort Hamer Road, and Upper Manatee River Road, is expected to be completed by summer of 2017.
Gator Grading and Paving submitted the only bid for the park project. It had been anticipated the upgrade would cost about $900,000, but Gator’s bid exceeded the estimated cost, requiring Manatee County Commission approval to proceed.