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Major expansion to Placida Park, ramp under way 

February 1, 2024
By Anna Ridilla

Charlotte County is planning a boat ramp expansion at Placida Park West, an upgrade that is much needed, according to people who regularly use the dock and ramp.

“It gets very crowded,” said Tanner Parker, who was on a boat at the park on Tuesday, Jan 30. “I’ve been saying they should make the slips longer, because some of the trailers are really long, and when they pull out, there isn’t enough room.”

The project, which is funded by the one percent local-option sales tax, includes a two-lane boat ramp, a kayak launch, additional parking for both vehicles and boat trailers, asphalt ADA parking and restrooms. It is not only a public access point for thousands of residents, but it is the gateway property to Boca Grande, as it abuts Eldred’s Marina. It is not the only county park in the area.

The new boat ramp will be built on the property adjacent to the existing boat ramp, which currently has three launch lanes, three boarding piers and 79 boat trailer parking spaces, according to Brian Gleason, communications manager for the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners in a Jan. 23 email.

The county held a series of public input meetings as part of the early design process, but few people at the dock seemed familiar with the planned update.

Fisherman Mike Wilhite, who is at the Placida Park dock five to six days a week, said that traffic was especially bad on the weekends, and he has had to wait around 30 minutes for a ramp. 

The county had 4,857 parking payments at the park in 2023, and capacity had previously been reduced because of the Verizon temporary tower, which has recently been removed.

Nicholas Calitri, who often paints houses in Boca Grande for his father’s company, Domenic Calitri Painting Services Inc., was issued a parking ticket last week after he was unable to find a spot for his vehicle. Parking spots for cars without trailers are very limited, he said.

There is only one exit out of the parking lot, Calitri added, so when the dock is busy, a line of cars forms from people trying to turn out of the lot.

Calitri owns a small dinghy, and he sometimes has to wait for a ramp at the dock, but bigger boats – anything over 12 feet – almost always have to wait, he said. He has seen people wait for over an hour, especially on weekends.

The design is expected to be completed in August 2024, depending on permit approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The project is budgeted for $7 million, but that number is subject to change when the construction contract goes out to bid.

The original ramp had only 23 parking spaces until 50 more were added in 1999.

Back in 2005, local residents, led by Ann Dever, a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, helped to acquire one acre by the Coral Creek Fishing Pier.

The county purchased additional land at 12560 Placida Road for the park back in 2010 to possibly add another ramp to ease congestion. By that time, the park also had a boat ramp and 87 parking spaces. The county bought the land from Fifth Third Bank for $3 million, which was then considered a bargain.