County Begins E.G. Simmons Park Boat Ramp Expansion Project
By Tamas Mondovics
An expansion project, which will double the boat ramp launching capacity, providing access to Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, has begun at the 469-acre E.G. Simmons Park and Preserve, located 2401 19th Ave. N.W., near Ruskin.Since the mid-60s, the park has been serving residents and outdoor enthusiasts as a popular location for picnics and camping, with a beautiful waterfront view. While a boat launch provides access to saltwater fishing and boating, the park features a number of fishing piers and areas for bank fishing. It is a popular location for bird watching among the shallow waters of the surrounding mangrove swamps.Of course, such a history of serving residents for almost five decades also means a need for some upgrades as well as much-needed timely improvements. According to Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Manager John Brill, this park improvement will provide a new 40-ft. ramp and two floating docks that will increase safety and decrease the time needed for water enthusiasts to launch and load a watercraft. “The new ramps and docks will mirror the existing facility and be constructed adjacent to the current ramp,” Brill said. “The existing ramp and docks will remain open during construction.” The Capital Improvement Project (CIP) is joint-funded with a grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and is estimated to cost $476,500. Brill said that construction began in June and is scheduled to be completed in October 2010. “This particular boat launching location is one of the most heavily used in the county and makes the construction of a second floating, loading dock an important project welcomed by local boaters,” he said. Current boat launch fees at county ramps are $5 a day or $100 for a yearly pass. Passes are available at the Park Office, located at 15502 Morris Bridge Rd., or by downloading an application from the Parks, Recreation and Conservation Website at www.hillsboroughcounty.org/parks/resources/forms/AnnualPass.pdf. The Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department manages more than 20 boat ramps that provide access to both fresh and saltwater recreation areas. For a list of boat ramps, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org/parks/parkservices/BoatWeb.pdf.