Manatee County reopens ramps after boater complaints

Manatee County will reopen public boat ramps after boaters complained they needed outdoor activities during closures and social distancing measures due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

County commissioners decided two weeks ago to close the boat ramps in an attempt to keep people from gathering in large groups.

That decision did not sit well with many boat owners, some of which came to Friday's Board of County Commissioners meeting.

“I think what you’re going to find is a lot of boaters are going to be respectful of the situation. You’re going to find the boating and the fishing community policing themselves, and you’re not going to have an issue,” said resident Matt Bower.

RELATED: Sarasota boat ramps, Bird Key Park parking lot to close Sunday

Resident James Alderman added, “I have a close family member that’s got a disability and just getting out on the boat is extremely good therapy for her, especially during this time of crisis when everything is so confusing.”

Even though commissioners ended up voting to reopen the boat ramps, some objected to it, saying they saw people gathering on barrier islands and still going in large groups on boats during the closure.

Commissioner Misty Servia of District 4 stressed that people should do the right thing.

“We are in an emergency and you must practice that social distancing and park your trailer appropriately and follow the rules, or I’m sure the board is going to revisit this issue quickly,” Servia said.

The boat ramps will reopen Monday, but a specific time had not been decided.

In Hillsborough County, only some of the boat ramps are closed down. In Pinellas County, all boat ramps are open.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


Map of known COVID-19 cases:

MOBILE APP USERS: Click here for map