Manatee County Government Administrative Center First Floor, Commissioner Chambers 9:00 a.m. - January 29, 2013
REVISED January 29, 2013 Regular Meeting
Agenda Item #36

Ft. Hamer Park/Rowing Facility Report & Idle Speed-No Wake Zone/Public Hearing Authorization


Contact and/or Presenter Information


Cynthia Gray / Sr. Admin. Spec. / x6002


Cindy Turner / Director / x6001

Tom Yarger / Construction Services Project Manager / x3003

Action Requested
Authorization to advertise a Public Meeting to propose the implementation of a boating safety Idle Speed - No Wake Zone on the Manatee River adjacent to Ft. Hamer Park.

Enabling/Regulating Authority

FL Statute 327.46 - Vessel Safety

Manatee County Code of Ordinances, Chapter 2-32, Article II - Boating Safety


Background Discussion

Ft. Hamer Park is a 7 acre park located on the Manatee River.

The Ft. Hamer Rowing Facility and Boathouse was developed as a public/private partnership between Manatee and Sarasota Counties and the Benderson Development Corporation.  The partners wanted to create a world-class rowing/training facility at Nathan Benderson and Ft. Hamer Parks. 

Employees of Manatee County managed the construction of the $1.1 million project, which includes an 8,000 sq. ft. boathouse that can accommodate 50 hulls, a pavilion with public restrooms, boat and trailer storage areas, indoor and outdoor teaching areas, and floating docks.

We continue to market ourselves as a Rowing Destination.  A visiting team is backing up that claim.  Harvard University, one of the top teams in the country, calls Manatee County home once a year to train for the upcoming season. 

The Ft. Hamer Rowing Facility and Boathouse were built in the fall of 2010 and hosted its first colleges January 2011. This year, the new facilities are also being used by collegiate rowing teams from Grand Valley State, Georgetown Women and University of Buffalo Women, High Point University, Ridley College, Shawnigan Lake School, and by international rowing teams.  The Canadian Olympic team trained here for the 2012 Games.

The facility has spurred an interest from three local high schools, Palmetto, Manatee and Southeast, which have formed rowing teams.  Local volunteers help keep the facilities in top condition, maintain equipment and serve as hosts to the college teams who visit from other parts of the country.

In 2013 we will be designing and constructing additional parking and the required stormwater treatment to accommodate it. The existing floating dock will be extended to better accommodate rowing teams. We will also be adding security lighting, parking area lighting, paver patio, sidewalks, landscaping and a playground.

The Ft. Hamer Rowing Facility and Boathouse has had a positive economic impact, as visiting teams stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants and spend money in the community. 

The current use of Ft. Hamer Park as a rowing training facility was not anticipated when the regulated speed zones that exist in this section of the Manatee River were established in 2004/2005.  In addition, future improvements to the launch ramp and docks at the park could increase vessel traffic in this general area. Also, the public boat ramp at the park is used extensively by boaters wishing to access the middle and upper reaches of the Manatee River.

During a recent public meeting concerning additional improvement to the park, County staff were informed of instances where wakes originating from vessel traffic in the area of the floating dock were causing issues for rowers at or near the floating dock.

Currently, there is a Slow Speed Minimum Wake zone outside of the 25 mph channel in the surrounding area of the Ft. Hamer boat ramp and floating dock. 

In accordance with Section 327.46(1)(b), Florida Statute, it is necessary to establish an idle speed, no wake boating restricted area over the area of the Manatee River adjacent to Ft. Hamer Park, for a distance of 500 feet in each direction upriver and downriver from the Ft. Hamer Park rowing facility dock, for the purpose of protecting the safety of the public based upon boating accidents, visibility and vessel traffic congestion.  (Please see attached map.)

Pursuant to Florida Statute 327.46(1)(b)1.a. the County has the authority to a boating restricted area for the purpose of boating safety by ordinance.

Any such ordinance is subject to final approval of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC). FWC staff have indicated that the "idle speed no wake" zone may extend 500 feet east and west of the floating dock.

We are seeking Board authorization to advertise a Public Meeting to propose the implementation of a boating safety Idle Speed - No Wake Zone, before amending the ordinance.

County Attorney Review
Other (Requires explanation in field below)

Explanation of Other

The County Attorney's Office provided a draft ordinance establishing an idle speed zone adjacent to the Ft. Hamer Park rowing dock.  The following points of advice were provided as well:

The draft ordinance follows the format and practice set forth in our existing ordinance, Ch. 2-32 of the Code of Laws, regarding the delineation of the new zone in a revised Boating Safety Watercourse Map.  These practices have been followed in order to assure the greatest possible consistence with the requirements of Florida Statutes (FS) Ch. 327, such that the County should continue to follow them.  With that in mind, the Natural Resources Department should prepare a revised Boating Safety Watercourse Map to be attached as an exhibit to the ordinance. (The language has been tightened up to use the term "idle speed, no wake", reflecting the new restrictions in FS 327.46.)

You should seek authorization from the Board to schedule a public hearing to adopt the ordinance. (Only one hearing is required, subject to the standard 10-day notice requirements applicable under FS125.66.)

FS 327.46(1) now requires that we submit this ordinance for approval by Florida Fish & Wildlife Commissioner (FWC) before the speed zone can take effect.

Before the new speed zone can be enforced, markers must be put in place, which are subject to FWC and US Coast Guard approval.

Reviewing Attorney

Instructions to Board Records

Please forward an approved copy of the agenda item to Cynthia Gray, Parks & Recreation Department.

Cost and Funds Source Account Number and Name

Amount and Frequency of Recurring Costs

Attachment:  Waterways Amendment (Ft. Hamer ISZ) Draft I.pdf
Attachment:  FtHamerISNW - Map.pdf