Feature Article: Dana Point Launch Ramp

Dana Point Harbor launch ramp parking temporarily reconfigured

BY PAUL LEBOWITZ/WON Staff WriterPublished: Jun 04, 2019

DANA POINT — Users of the public launch ramp at Dana Point Harbor have noticed changes to the trailer boater parking lot. It was recently reconfigured, consisting now of 101 trailer parking spots and 5 disabled trailer parking spots, a reduction from the prior 334 spots serving the paid launch ramp parking area. Importantly, this reduction is expected to be temporary.

The changes are the first signs of the ambitious Dana Point Harbor Revitalization Plan, a process 20 years in the making that started with the October, 2018 signing of a 66-year lease by Dana Point Harbor Partners, a consortium of retail, marina, and hotel developers. Bellwether Financial Group is responsible for the water side, including the marina, dry boat storage, the shipyard, fuel docks and public launch ramp parking area.

THE PUBLIC LAUNCH RAMP parking area at Dana Point Harbor has been temporarily reduced in size to 106 trailer spaces, a development necessitated by the upcoming construction of a 1,011-spot parking structure immediately west of the reconfigured lot. Of note, tow vehicles and trailers will not at any time be required to park separately as had been rumored.

The project, a complete makeover of the Harbor, will include new retail and restaurant areas as well as new facades for existing structures that will be retained, as well as two new hotels.

“It was a very long road. Our harbor is old (48 years). The merchants are supportive of it. I’m supportive of (the plan),” said Donna Kalez, General Manager of Dana Wharf Sportfishing.

Ralph Grippo is a principal of Bellwether Financial Group (BFG). “Everyone is so excited as to what’s to come. It will revitalize (the Harbor) for the next generation or two. The Harbor is a spectacular asset for Orange County and the state of California. We’re excited to bring fresh new life to the Harbor. With that, we may have to take one step backwards to take 1,000 forward. The construction phases may be challenging. Like an expressway, you have to close a lane to add two more,” he said.

The lot reconfiguration was made necessary by the planned construction of a 1,011 space, 3-level parking structure immediately west of the current launch ramp lot.

Grippo acknowledged the reconfigured trailer boat parking area has been temporarily reduced in size, but pointed out that it was previously a mixed use-parking lot for cars and trailers. Car parking will be in the westerly adjacent lot until construction begins on the parking structure.

“There are fewer parking spaces but it’s all for trailer parking,” he said. In addition, BFG has secured a secondary trailer parking lot that accommodates approximately 25 additional boats. It is located across the launch ramp basin in an area next to the shipyard, and is served by a golf cart shuttle. It is behind a gate that is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during summer hours, or 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on holidays and weekends.

Wash racks are still available in the launch ramp parking area, but most have been re­located to the back of the lot to aid traffic circulation. The old exit has been closed. The new exit is adjacent to the entrance.

Grippo said three years of audits determined the current trailer boat parking capacity was only exceeded a handful of days in the past three years. “We haven’t always needed that space,” he said. When the Revitalization Project is complete, a process that will take years, Grippo added there will once again be 334 trailer parking spots. But for now, those who anticipate going on peak days may want to arrive early.

Launch ramp users may be inconvenienced during the construction phase, but they will not have to park their tow vehicles and trailers separately at any time, as was rumored.

“That would be in the hearsay category,” Grippo said. “Over the past 3 months we received really good, positive feedback to the changes we’ve made to take care of the day boaters and their needs. I’m in the customer service business, of making people happy. We want people to enjoy Dana Point Harbor.”

A SECONDARY TRAILER parking area is located across the basin from the launch ramp adjacent to the shipyard. It will accommodate approximately 25 additional trailers, and is located behind a gate open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during summer hours and 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

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