| The News Herald
PANAMA CITY — The completion of the first phase of improvements at a local bayfront park was celebrated Friday with a ceremonial first boat launch.
Panama City officials and supporters from surrounding communities attended the launch at Carl Gray Park on Collegiate Drive, which heralded in $1 million of improvements. The upgrades included the replacement of the former boat ramp with a newly constructed two-lane ramp, the addition of three fixed staging docks, installation of markers to control access to the ramp, improvements to the parking lot, and a new stabilized shoreline.
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“This is another exciting accomplishment in City of Panama City with Carl Gray Park improvements,” said City Manager Mark McQueen.
“It’s been a process that’s been underway for a number of years, moving through different funding sources to secure the monies to be able to do that,” he later added. “We’re looking forward to our great citizens using Carl Gray Park as a viable boat launch.”
With the assistance of the county, the project received $500,000 in governmental funding, officials said in a news release. The county also helped dredge a deeper channel in 2018 to allow larger boats access to the boat ramps. The first phase of improvements took about five months to complete; it will now enter its final phase.
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At Tuesday’s city commission meeting, commissioners voted to award Panhandle Engineering $72,750 for the engineering and design of phase two, which involves the eastern side of the park.
Quality of Life Director Sean De Palma gave a presentation to announce the progress and invite the commission and public to attend the ceremonial boat launch.
“(Phase two) is going to bring back the things that we lost on October 2018 with Hurricane Michael. We’re going to be adding landscaping, bringing back beach sand so that we’re going to have an actual beach access point here to be utilized,” De Palma said.
Other improvements also include two sets of new restrooms, outdoor showers, pavilions, picnic tables, sidewalks, playground sets and more lighting.
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McQueen said he anticipates the improved park will better serve Gulf Coast State College Students and Florida State University — Panama City students, especially when the latter opens new dorms in fall of next year.
“It’s just really something we want to have as a premier park in the City of Panama City,” McQueen said. “Those students will have opportunities to use that park. It’s just a great park and great asset.”
Carl Gray Park is open daily dawn to dusk.