It wasn't on the agenda, but the proposal to build a boat ramp on Crooked Creek launched a new debate at Wednesday's meeting of the Bay County Commission. Members of a citizens group opposed to the ramp once again made their case and commissioners clarified their intent.
Jennifer Wolgamott, an architect and member of "Friends of Crooked Creek" urged commissioners to leave the waterway as it is. Using a cardboard model of the 7.56 acre site located just north of the County Road 388 bridge, Wolgamott said the property is not appropriate for a boat ramp.
"This is basically a 24 foot bluff that happens over a 50 foot span down to the water," said Wolgamott. "This proposed boat ramp would basically have to be cut down into this grade to get boats down to the water."
Wolgamott estimated the cost of the project at $2 million. "It will be a very costly boat ramp because of the excavation that will have to be done as well as the retaining walls as well as the storm water management," she said.
But Commissioner Mike Thomas said the group's environmental concerns – and Wolgamott's estimate – are off base. "I don't know how much it is but everything has been exaggerated quite a bit," said Thomas.
Thomas said the ramp on Crooked Creek has been in the works for six years and he never heard any opposition until just a few weeks ago. "We have looked at this for a long time… this isn't something that happened overnight," he said. The project began to take shape when The St. Joe Company agreed to donate the property.
The commission voted 4-1 to green light the ramp, with Chairman George Gainer casting the lone dissenting vote. "I didn't think enough research had been done and to have taken [the property] strictly for a boat ramp and then dedicating the money for it I thought was a little bit premature," said Gainer.
Now that commissioners have decided to proceed with the ramp, county staff will begin the process of finalizing construction plans and obtaining state environmental approvals. The Friends of Crooked Creek hope to be involved in the process, said Wolgamott.