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November 1, 2012

FWC grant program will improve boating access at Gibson Park

Jasper — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced the recipients for the 2012-2013 Florida Boating Improvement Program (FBIP) grants and Hamilton County is one of them receiving $411,950 for improvements to the Gibson Park boat ramp.

Improvements will include widening the ramp to accommodate two dedicated lanes and placing a four foot wide divider between them, reconstructing the road in and out of the park into a loop, and dedicated parking for trucks and boat trailers, which are all compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“It’s a great project,” said Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Director Chuck Burnett. “I’m impatient and ready to get started.”

Burnett said currently there are times when there are 10-15 boats backed up trying to get in and out of the water, so the widening project should greatly improve that situation.

There were 27 different grants, totaling $5.2 million that were awarded throughout the state.

“These grants for boat ramps will bring economic development opportunities across our state,” said Governor Rick Scott. “As the fishing capital of the world, Florida takes pride in the maintenance and quality of our boat ramps and facilities. They will provide a steady flow of tourism and recreation.”

In addition to patrolling Florida’s woods and waters to protect people and natural resources, the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement manages boating access.

“We administer grant programs for boating access and boating-related activities,” said Maj. Jack Daugherty, leader of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “The grants are awarded to eligible counties, municipalities and other state governmental entities to fund projects like boat ramp construction, channel marking and derelict vessel removal.”

Hamilton County is designated as a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern by the governor, which is why they received a substantial grant.

Funds for these grants are derived largely from the federal Sport Fish Restoration – Boat Access Program. Federal funds are collected when people buy fishing tackle and motor fuels, and from import duties on tackle and yachts. The money is returned to appropriate state agencies for research, management and development activities that deal with sport fish and boating access. Federal law requires 15 percent of these funds go to building and repairing boat ramps.

Burnett said, “Gibson Park is one of our prized resources with unlimited potential for the county.”

The park is located at 6844 SW CR 751 in Jasper. For more information call 386-792-1631.

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