Who needs a car when you can get to dinner by boat?
Just in time for getting outside on the Fourth of July, the City of Tampa has opened three boat docks and a kayak launch at Water Works Park just north of downtown.
The park sits next to Ulele, one of Tampa Bay's newest and most popular restaurants.
So whether you cruise, kayak or stand-up paddleboard your way along the Hillsborough River, you can now make Water Works Park a stopping point.
The new docks expand Tampa Bay's public access points to the Hillsborough River, which runs through the heart of downtown. Boaters already have access at Tampa Bay History Center, Cotanchobee Ft. Brooke Park, the Tampa Convention Center, and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
The new docks at Water Works Park can accommodate two boats at a time and has a slot large enough for a water taxi. The kayak launch just north of the docks is a single ramp sloping down to the water.
According to the Tampa Tribune/TBO.com:
The city built the new Water Works slips with expansion in mind. Pending approval of the Army Corps of Engineers — and user demand — city officials are already looking at expanding the number of slips to eight.
The cost for the dock and kayak launch was included in the original $7.4 million budget for Waterworks Park, which opened in August. City officials filed an application to build the dock in August 2013, around the time construction started on the park, and received the final OK from the Corps of Engineers in April.
Part of the delay was over concern for the river’s residents.
The docks are close to a manatee gathering spot and the Corps of Engineers permit requires that any over-water construction stop when manatees are within 50 feet. Last year, the city extended a no-wake zone to cover the section of the river adjacent to the park. The city has also installed permanent signs to make boaters aware of the mammals and warn passersby not to feed or touch them.
The docks make a great place to spot manatees. The morning after they opened, a single manatee lazed between the main dock grazing on whatever plants grew nearby.