Florida Sea Grant recently completed a study designed to provide Charlotte County with a planning instrument that specifies the type, quantity, and location of public shore access and boating facilities needed to meet anticipated demand through 2050 while minimizing environmental impacts on sensitive marine habitat. The full report, Planning for the Future of Recreational Boating Access to Charlotte County Waterways 2010-2050, TP-186, will soon be available from Florida Sea Grant, flseagrant.org.
The project consisted of the following tasks (1) inventory of existing boat registrations, boat docks, ramps, and marina facilities; (2) assessment of the future need for boat docks, ramps, and marina facilities; (3) identification of suitable locations in the county for ramp, marina, and mooring facilities; (4) evaluation of Charlotte County’s compliance with Florida’s working waterfront legislation; (5) outlining the development of a Charlotte County manatee protection plan; and (6) updating the 1996 Marine Use Regulatory Study for Charlotte County (Tupper and Antonini 1996).
These are some of the findings from the study:
· In 1978, 5,176 pleasure boats were registered in Charlotte County and in 2010, 20,355 were registered. Over the 33 year period, the number of pleasure boat registrations in Charlotte County increased by 293%, a rate that was more than 2.6 times that experienced by Florida (110%) as a whole.
· In 2010, on average, there were 7.9 people for every registered boat in Charlotte County.
· Currently, 53% of Charlotte County resident boaters keep their vessel at a dock in Charlotte County, 35% launch from a ramp, and 12% use a marina wet or dry slip.
· Residents comprise 53% of all ramp users and 51% of marina patrons at Charlotte County facilities.
· Approximately 28,125 boats will be registered in Charlotte County in 2050, an increase of about 38% over the 20,355 that were registered in 2010.
· The highest growth in pleasure boats from 2010-2050 is expected to occur in the 16ft to
· If marina capacity in Charlotte County remains consistent, Charlotte County will need an additional 870 slips by 2030; and 1,118 slips by 2050.
· Charlotte County’s supply of saltwater accessible parcels is sufficient to meet dock demand well beyond 2050.
· Inequities in the demand for ramp access versus the supply of ramp lanes are apparent for specific regions of Charlotte County, with the largest gap between current supply and demand found in the Stump Pass/Gasparilla Sound region.
· Lower Charlotte Harbor and points to the south is the destination for an overwhelming majority of boaters. Given that 80% of resident boaters who use ramps live in central and east Charlotte County—areas that have no ramps on Lower Charlotte Harbor—it makes sense to consider placement of new ramps in this area.
· Potential mooring field sites in Charlotte County include six in the Lower Peace River region, three in upper Lemon Bay, and one in the Stump Pass/Gasparilla region.