a pier and boat ramp.
The state of the current boat ramp in the City of Valparaiso's Lincoln Park. Valparaiso's City Clerk Says the ramp is in danger of closure if something is not done about it.

Redoing The Ramp In Valparaiso

The City of Valparaiso will dip into its coffers to combine with a $400,000 grant to rehabilitate the city’s boat launch at Lincoln Park. Total cost of the project – $1,000,000.

The grant, which comes from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)was awarded to the city “some time ago,” according to Valparaiso City Engineer Beth Brandt, “It came somewhat out of the blue and was based on some design plans that were quite a few years old. That was probably adequate at that time to build that boat ramp then. The boat ramp is in poor condition – it needs to be repaired if it continues to be used.”

City Clerk Tammy Johnson was more abrupt in her assessment. “If we don’t do this, we might have to close the boat ramp at the park.”

“I think that is a big draw to our city,” said Commissioner Chris Wasdin, “and it’s our infrastructure. I don’t know if it qualifies that way, but it’s a part of core Val-p.”

The project will replace the current boat ramp and docks, add a ramp, create a small ‘T’ pier into the water, and increase the width of the entrance to the boat ramp from Bayshore Drive to 27 feet. 

Getting The Money For The Boat Ramp

While the Commission approved the bid to construct the new facility, they still needed to decide where the money will come from. The entire amount of the FWC grant would be used to complete the project, but the city has a couple of sources from which it can take the rest of the cash. 

A look to the west as the sun sets over Valparaiso, Florida
  • American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Money, signed into law by President Joe Biden after passage by Congress in 2021, was intended to help relieve economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The money comes with some restrictions on its use. The city could remove planned ARPA funding for a new police vehicle ($52,000), $75,000 for a firehouse building expansion, and money from the community development block grant (CDBG) to help make the boat ramp project happen.
  • The city has a $15,000 boating improvement grant available from the county every year to help with the improvement.  
  • The city has more than $300,000 in its parks reserves funds that could be used for the boat ramp project. 

“We have money from different sources,” Commissioner Wasdin added, “we’ve just got to play the shell game to figure out what the source is.”

Valparaiso resident Daniel Irwin asked the council whether or not they had considered using money from the tourism development tax now that the city is inside the county-wide taxing district on hotel beds. 

“We would have had to have this in by March last year for them to consider it,” Tammy Johnson replied. 

Irwin noted that no city member had attended the TDC meetings in the past two years. “That being said,” Irwin added, “This fits right into improvements for access, parks, beaches, travel, restoration, conservation. It fits the bill for everything that they do with that money.”

He then asked that someone from the council attend the meetings. “We don’t always attend the meetings, but we are keeping up with how much money is being put in the bank, and we know that we need to use it within five years and are planning. We are waiting for the bank to get a little bit bigger,” said Valparaiso City Engineer Beth Brandt.

When Will The Project Start?

The city put the project out for bid and received three offers. The request the city decided to go with was the lowest, from Loftis Marine for $998,000. Property Image out of Fort Walton Beach ($1.02 Million) and HG Harders of Panama City ($1.80 Million) were the other two bidders.

The project will start shortly after the vote, according to Brandt, because the project must be completed before June of 2024 to meet the grant’s requirements and be ready for the summer season.


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