Feature Article: Shelter Island Launch Ramp

Gimme Shelter

BY PAT McDONELL/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Dec 12, 2018

At long last, Port of San Diego announces Dec. 21 as the unofficial opening date of the state’s busiest boat launch ramp, just in time for the Feb. 2 San Diego Anglers Bay Bass Open Tournament, now in its 23rd year

THE NEW AND improved Shelter Island Launch Ramp facilities are set to reopen to launching next Friday, Dec. 21 after significant delays pushed the completion date back during construction. Photo by Paul Lebowitz

POINT LOMA — After 14 months of construction, the busiest boat launch ramp in California will be up and running with a projected opening date of Dec. 21, said Marguerite Elicone, an official with the Port of San Diego, which is directing the massive project.

When boats go back into the water, they will see a similarly sized interior basin but it will offer far more room to launch and then maneuver. The basin will be deeper throughout, have an expanded and repositioned 60-foot entrance and exit in the middle, and it provides twice as much floating dock space. The old Shelter Island facility, while providing free and close access to the mouth of the bay as well as its best fishing spot, was crumbling. And if not downright dangerous, it was at the least — even for veteran boaters — uncomfortable to launch at, particularly at low tide. On busy weekends, it became particularly frustrating at the narrow entrance.

“It will be great to be back with the tournament and have the launch ramp,” said Dwayne Patenaude, co-director of the 23rd annual San Diego Angler Bay Bass Tournament featuring 150 two-man teams and dozens of kayakers. The tourney, the largest held in the bay, was cancelled last year due to construction, but is back in gear coming up on Feb. 2. “I went down to check it out and it looks like it’s going quickly.”

He added that port officials said the massive parking lot that is serving as a construction staging area would be cleared out by tournament day. And, he noticed two trees were planted on the grass where the 50-foot-long tent usually goes but it now appears the tent will fit, with 5 feet to spare. After two years, sponsors are all back on board, said Patenaude, and as expected, there was high and enthusiastic angler response from emails about the tourney’s return.

The Port’s spokeswoman, Elicone, said the primary big-ticket work on docks, ramps and railings and concrete/asphalt work on access roads would be completed by Dec. 21, with cleanup continuing through January. It came in just barely over budget despite nearly a year of delays.

As with all boaters, it was hoped by anglers using the popular ramp to access the bay and waters outside that the ramp basin square footage be expanded. It’s tight. Due to the permit process, said Patenaude, the Port could not expand the outer footprint of the riprap.

Thus, the wide walls of riprap were replaced by narrower cement walls, placed on the outermost edges of the riprap to provide the same “footprint,” but now provide far more room in the basin. Added were several interior docks, new aluminum bridged walkways to those floating docks and lighted pathways with railings atop the concrete walls for visitors observe. Fishing from the walks will not be allowed.

Begun in late May of 2017, the San Diego Port District’s Shelter Island Boat Launch Facility Improvement Project was kickstarted with approval of state funds via the Wildlife Conservation Boat at $3.5 million and the state’s Boating and Waterways Dept. funding of $6.1 million. Despite a delay of nearly a year, the original estimate of $9.6 million remains within sight. The Port’s Elicone said the cost will come in at just under $10 million.

The 10-lane facility is the busiest in the state at 50,000 launches a year, and is one of four free-of-charge public boat launch ramps in San Diego Bay, but is by far the closest to the entrance and is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. It was expected to reopen in late 2017 or early January when first announced, but the contractor encountered unexpected reinforced debris under the visible riprap designation for removal.

The launch facility restrooms and walkways will also be brought up to current standards set by the Americans with Disability Act.

THE OLD RAMP, and the new one almost completed at Shelter Island. While the footprint is the same, it will be vastly improved with pathways atop the outer walls, a larger basin, more docks, a new concrete ramp and updated restrooms. San Diego Port Illustrations

THE SAN DIEGO BAY’S Shelter Island Launch Ramp facility was seeing the final stages of reconstruction being completed last week with basin docks installed, railed walkways atop the outer basin walls and roadwork in final stages before cleanup of the staging areas. Opening is slated for Dec. 21.

duringexcavationDURING EXCAVATION, THE contractor encountered a large amount of concrete debris that was not known to exist. The removal of the concrete required an extension of the project schedule. Port District Photo

ONE MAJOR ELEMENT was the pouring of the concrete roadway out of the ramp area, which was expected to be done after the rains last week. Opening day is unofficially Dec. 21. Site cleanup will continue after that. Pat McDonell Photo

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