NAVARRE BEACH — ‘Tis the season for boating – which means a lot of people are using public boat launches.
This past weekend, sand had drifted onto the approach to one of three ramps at the Navarre Beach Boat Ramp, closing one lane to some boat trailers and creating traction issues for others who used it.
On Sunday, Amy Burgdoff and her family had issues launching her parent’s boat into Santa Rosa Sound from the ramps behind Juana’s Pagoda due to the sand buildup.
“The left lane was just covered in sand,” she said. “We had to use four-wheel drive. We were out there from about 1-3 p.m. and you could see people sliding around in the sand. It was a beautiful day, so there was a high volume of people.”
Some left their frustrations on the popular Facebook group page, Concerned Citizens of Navarre. The issue is not a lack of maintenance, but that the sands are “forever shifting,” said Glenn Bailey, assistant director of Public Works for Santa Rosa County.
“It’s one of the few things we handle on Navarre Beach,” he said. “It’s a unique situation. The natural movement of the sand gets blocked by the floating dock. We go out and clean every Thursday, especially during tourist season. People are certainly welcome to call us if there’s an issue.”
Santa Rosa County has 25 boat launches in total. Bailey said the rest of the docks in Santa Rosa County don’t require weekly maintenance. In neighboring counties, there are even more boat launches to be maintained. Louis Svehla, public information officer for Walton County, said there aren’t any boat launches into the Gulf of Mexico, but there are 53 launches at parks and around Choctawhatchee Bay that are maintained. In Okaloosa County, there are 15 public boat launches which are maintained when necessary, said Public Works Director Jason Autrey.
It can be difficult to keep the ramp cleaned and maintained. Storm events can also cause sand buildup, Bailey said.
But as a boater himself, he understands how anxious folks can be to see it clear.
“It’s a very nice ramp,” he said. “Even without access to the Gulf, it’s still very popular for smaller crafts.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission maintains an online boat launch finder at myfwc.com/boatramps.