CLEWISTON, Fla. — There’s a new access bridge in Clewiston that leads up to Herbert Hoover Dike Road by Lake Okeechobee. This bridge is just the first of many improvements the city has planned for the public park and boat ramp off the Florida National Scenic Trail.
For years, the city said it only had a ground-level crossing that restricted boater access to the lake, especially during busy fishing tournaments. Recognizing the need for change, Clewiston decided to invest in a new access bridge. According to Randy Martin, Clewiston City Manager, removing the existing crossing will improve lake access for boats. “It will allow us to put additional boat ramps on the other side of the bridge, where you can’t do that with the existing one because boats couldn’t get under the at-grade crossing,” he explained.
The city's plan includes adding at least two more boat ramps, bringing the total to eight, as part of a comprehensive “master plan” for the area. Martin says he envisions a transformed space, saying, “We want to do other amenities like walking trails, interpretive for landscape and wildlife, birding, bird-watching, biking, access to the 'Lost Trail' around the lake.”
Martin says the city also plans to widen scenic paths, install workout stations, revamp parking lots to accommodate more boat trailer parking, and create new walkways to the access bridge. With these improvements, Martin says he expects more people and tour-buses to be drawn to the area to see the lake.
“Several thousand visitor a year come to this community by bus. So, one of their viewing points will be to go to the lake over the new bridge on these large tour buses. So, the bridge is built to accommodate easy ingress and egress of those kinds of buses,” Martin explained.
Martin emphasized that the benefits of these enhancements extend beyond boaters and park visitors, saying, “All of those kinds of things we can do from a tourism realm have spin-off benefits in terms of more investment for hotels and restaurants - and as our community grows in terms of the population, the support for those kinds of amenities would be supplemented by any growth in tourism.”
Martin says the project will cost the city around eight-million dollar. While the new boat ramps are still 2-4 years away, he says the other improvements should be completed within the year.