At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, the council discussed fencing off the Fulton Shipyard Boat Ramp, which Antioch Police Captain Steve McConnell said has received 298 calls for service over the past few years. After hearing from Sheila White, who owns a restaurant near the ramp, and resident Rick Robinson, city officials decided to table the discussion until January so more people could offer solutions.
The discussion about the Fulton Shipyard ramp came after the council approved an item to charge $5 to launch boats with the soon-to-be-opened Marina Launch in Rivertown. Currently, the Fulton Shipyard Boat Ramp is free. In the staff report, City Engineer Ron Bernal pointed out that keeping the Fulton Shipyard ramp open and free would hurt revenue coming from the Marina Launch.
Councilman Brian Kalinowski floated the idea of engaging a private company to lease the boat ramp and be responsible for cleanup and protection.
“Obviously, this location has a storied past,” said Kalinowski, who was the one dissenting vote on the $5 fee item. “I think there’s a workaround, in my opinion, especially if we’re going to be charging at the other facility, to allow somebody that wants to take the time and effort to utilize that property in some sort of a lease agreement.”
McConnell spoke of criminal activity at the boat ramp, including vandalism, drug use, shootings, burglaries, fights, auto thefts and abandoned boats. By fencing off that area, McConnell claimed that the police department’s limited resources could be focused elsewhere. The captain also mentioned that local fishing bloggers have criticized the area as being unsafe.
“From a security standpoint, not having that facility open is safer for our employees who are down there,” Bernal said.
Robinson disagreed with the idea of closing off the Fulton Shipyard ramp, feeling that it’s the safest area in which to launch boats in the city. He said he had about 100 signatures on a petition to keep the ramp open, and pleaded with city officials to let those people get organized to present solutions at a future meeting. Robinson also cited the historical significance of the ramp, which was built in 1958, to Antioch residents.
White said the people who use the ramp during the day have been peaceful and that no customers have registered complaints with her about theft from their cars. She worried about the impact of the closure on her restaurant, The Red Caboose, which she has owned for eight years.
“I’m aware that there are little groups of people that hang at that boat ramp who probably aren’t up to any good, but there are little groups of people all over this city that aren’t up to any good,” White said. “To close something when there are so many boaters in this community – I don’t understand why we can’t have two boat ramps.”
Antioch’s City Council will bring the matter back before the public on Jan. 10 or 24.