Windermere is considering an expansion of its hours for the gate at the Fernwood Boat Ramp following a Town Council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 12.
The Parks & Recreation Committee has made a recommendation for the council to consider a time change for the gate. The ramp currently is open from dawn to dusk to follow Orange County standards. The committee said its members have received some feedback and would like the council to consider 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. as hours of operation.
Parks & Recreation Chair Nora Brophy voiced support for extending the Fernwood Boat Ramp hours.
“Now that the fences are up and that seems to have really alleviated the problem of people always coming there and trying to go to Bird Island, maybe we could expand the hours for residents a bit; people who already have boat passes,” she said. “So they could leave early in the morning if they want to go out fishing … or make sure if they’re watching fireworks and they don’t get back until 9:30 (p.m.) that they can still get their boat in.”
EXTENDING THE HOURS
Resident Kim Head supported the measure.
“It should be open 24/7,” she said. “That’s the whole reason our family bought our house. That’s the whole reason we live in Windermere. For us to have any time cut off is just not right.”
Resident Lesha Miller emailed her comments to be read at the meeting.
“We are so excited about how well the gate codes are working and how quiet Fernwood now is,” she said. “I appreciate being able to speak to most of you about allowing residents to use one of our best amenities in town. Sunset cruises, Disney fireworks and early-morning fishing are staples in our town. Please consider allowing the boat ramp to stay open after sunset.”
Mayor Jim O’Brien believes the town should proceed cautiously with any changes.
“I know that we truly wanted to make sure that we took this slow and we made sure … it was working,” he said. “With the exception of a couple of hours, all the feedback I get has been super positive. … I did talk to Tonya (Elliott-Moore) about this a little bit, and she mentioned that we may need some lighting there if we’re going to have some extended hours in the dark. … My take on it is I would rather proceed cautiously based upon the fact that we have just kind of regained what I would consider to be … a much better situation for those individuals that live down there.”
Town Council Member Tony Davit believes now that the fencing is up, access should not be restricted outside of what has been instituted.
“It’s not up to us to govern the way that people enjoy the lakes … ,” he said. “If I want to go out at two in the morning and launch my boat for a 2 to 4 cruise, that should be up to me to decide, not necessarily the Town Council.”
Town Council Member Tom Stroup agreed with Davit.
“We have a key access pad now (that) shows every person that comes and goes no matter what time of day,” he said. “We have cameras down there (that) will show the bad activities, so to speak, and we can adjust. I say give it a chance at 24/7. If there’s a problem, we pull it back and say we tried. … I don’t want to re-create the same problem we just fixed, but under the circumstances, I’m really holding the residents of Windermere accountable for their own actions.”
Davit made a motion to open the boat ramp 24/7 with or without lighting. The lighting issue will be investigated separately.
The motion passed unanimously.
LICENSE TO DRIVE
Council members also approved unanimously the first reading of an ordinance pertaining to the operation of golf carts on public roads or streets in the town.
The ordinance amends the town’s code by requiring any person operating a golf cart on designated town roads or streets to have a valid learner’s permit or driver’s license.
The ordinance reflects changes made by House Bill 949, which was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May.
Although Florida law has previously allowed anyone age 14 and older to drive a golf cart, the new bill states golf cart drivers under age 18 must be at least 15 with a learner’s permit or 16 with a driver’s license.
In addition, anyone who is age 18 or older must have a valid government-issued ID to drive a golf cart.
Read the full story on how the new golf cart law will affect local municipalities here.