City Council weighs rules for
PUNTA GORDA — A small, unused marina long known simply as the “boat basin in Gilchrist Park” was given an official name Wednesday to match its growing city stature, when the City Council reached a consensus to call it “Gilchrist Landing.”
The council also set some minimal rules for its use that, to a large extent, leave the basin open for a variety of public small-boat purposes.
Those decisions were reached just after a city contractor completed the dredging of the basin, and just before the city relocates a half-dozen floating docks to facilitate the use of the basin. It is located adjacent to the Punta Gorda Boat Club and the city’s Bayfront Center building.
No signs were mandated by Florida Department of Environmental Protection at the basin because it is not located within state submerged lands, unlike the city’s Laishley Park Municipal Marina, where numerous signs were required, according to Mark Gering, city engineer. So, the city may post “whatever signs we see fit,” he said.
However, city staffers consulted with DEP staffers for advice about signs. The DEP suggested they reflect marina best management practices, Gering said.
They would include signs prohibiting boat cleaning and requiring boaters to contain spills with their own buckets or absorbent pads.
The DEP also suggested the city post a “Florida Friendly Boating” sign, which can be purchased for $100. The sign informs boaters how to avoid harming such animals as dolphins, manatees and sea turtles.
The council agreed to adopt most of DEP’s suggestions and added prohibitions against swimming and fishing at the basin, for public safety reasons.
“What do we see as the purpose of (Gilchrist Landing)?” asked Councilwoman Carolyn Freeland. “Do we want overnight dockage?”
Several council members indicated overnight docking was not intended.
A primary purpose is to provide a place where cruising boaters who anchor off Gilchrist Park could use dinghies to come ashore, said Councilman Tom Cavanaugh.
The DEP staffers also suggested the city limit the draft of boats using the basin to keep their keels, or bottoms, from extending deeper than one foot above the bottom of the basin at low tide.
The basin is 5 feet deep, so that suggestion would limit boats to a 4-foot draft.
Rather than post a sign limiting the draft, or prohibiting overnight docking, the council opted to merely state on signs the basin is for “day docks.” The only limit on the size of vessels would be the depth of the channel leading to the basin, which is fairly shallow.
The channel also passes through a gap in a submerged, stone breakwater with a single marker to indicate the obstacle, said Gering.
Art Armstrong, chairman of Team Punta Gorda’s maritime committee, which sent a list of suggested names and sign messages for the basin, called for a channel marker to be installed some distance offshore with a sign stating “Gilchrist Landing — Dinghy Docks.” That would imply the basin is for “small boats,” said Armstrong.
He also warned prohibiting overnight docking might impinge on some programs offered by the Charlotte Harbor Community Sailing Center, which periodically organizes sailing camps and regional regattas.
Mayor Bill Albers, however, said special exceptions could be granted to allow overnight docking for such events.
However, Albers also said he was not in favor of signs suggesting the use was limited to just dinghies.
Patti Allen, general manager of Fishermen’s Village, suggested some signs be used to tell visiting boaters about the city’s “yellow bike” program. The program allows visitors to borrow city bicycles to ride around and shop.
“It helps them get to places where they can empty their wallets,” she said.