TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County, Tampa Police and FDOT have decided not to put up a gate to restrict access to a popular boat ramp in South Tampa during the overnight hours.
The preliminary proposal came up as one way to combat illegal street racing, but after meeting Wednesday afternoon, FDOT, the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County officials decided the plan is not an option.
It comes after charter fishermen and boaters blasted county leaders with emails after a social media post circulated throughout the boating community in Tampa Bay.
In an email, Forest Turbiville, the Director of the Hillsborough County Conservation and Environmental Lands Management Department originally explained to concerned citizens that "an increase in illegal car racing occurring on the Gandy Bridge during late evening/early morning hours" was a reason the overnight boat ramp closure was being looked at as an option. Turbiville noted in his email: "County staff were told that the Gandy Boat Ramp parking lot on the Hillsborough County side of the bridge and FDOT right-of-way on the Pinellas County side are the primary gathering spots for the street racing activities." Turbiville went on to say, "While it is not the county’s preference to place overnight gates at the Gandy Boat Ramp, we want to ensure the nighttime safety of the public driving on the Gandy Bridge. It is my hope that this issue can be resolved without installing gates, however, if this option is recommended by law enforcement officials, there will certainly be a public meeting to discuss all of the issues at hand."
Wednesday, Turbiville told ABC Action News in an email, "all parties agreed during a meeting Wednesday that no such gate is needed."
The update came as a relief for fisherman, charter captains and boaters.
“If they did this, it would make me angry because now you’re messing with my livihood,” charter fishing captain Bubba Betancourt explained.
Charter boat captains told county leaders the change would drastically impact them since many captains fish for bait long before the sun comes up.
“It would put a lot of hardship and strain on my business and make me have to move my business somewhere else,” Jason Dozier, another charter boat captain added.
“They shouldn’t shut off a public ramp to public access I don’t care what time of day it is,” charter boat captain Wade Osborne weighed in.
Now, county leaders are looking into other solutions to combat the dangerous street racing problem.
“Please address it as soon as possible," South Tampa resident Amy Mitchell said. "Something has got to be done. It's not safe.”