Palm Beach officials fear boating gridlock

PALM BEACH, Fla. – A shortage of dock and ramp space combined with the increasing number of boat registrations, have officials in Palm Beach County, Fla., worried about boating gridlock both now and in the future, the Palm Beach Post reported in a story earlier this week.

Palm Beach County has 43 public boat ramps at 13 parks with saltwater access. Those sites have a combined 560 parking spaces. There are about 6,500 wet slips at the county’s 46 marinas. The boating industry figures two-thirds of registered boat owners rely on public ramps, according to the newspaper.

If 5 percent of those two-thirds of registered boaters launch on pubic county ramps – common on weekends – gridlock results. Using that formula, about 1,300 boaters compete for the 560 parking spaces at launching ramps. By 2020, registered boats are expected to increase countywide to about 58,000 – a 44 percent increase from the current level, according to a study by the Palm Beach County Boating Needs Assessment Committee.

The rising cost of dock space has many boaters storing their boats on trailers in their yards rather than local docks. This has created an environment of potential conflict in single-family-home neighborhoods, the Post reported.

“I see boats in front yards where they aren’t supposed to be,” Edie McConville, a Planning and Zoning Board member in Lake Park, Fla., told the newspaper. “Some people take them out of their back yards on Saturday, and leave them in the driveway all weekend. Outside boat storage has been a long-time problem in Lake Park.”

New businesses are springing up to meet the demand for alternatives for boaters, the newspaper reported.

Indoor boat storage buildings, such as the 300-space Loggerhead Club and Marina in Riviera Beach, are drawing boaters who do not want to keep their boats outside. Another option is the boat rental business. Jonathan’s Landing Marina started a boat rental business three years ago with three boats. The fleet now is 24 boats.

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