Okeechobee County boat ramps will stay open

OKEECHOBEE — Freshwater public boat ramps in Okeechobee County are open, and will stay that way as long as there is enough water to use them.

At the March 23 meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission, Comissioner David Hazellief said he had calls from community members who were concerned that the boat ramps might be closed.

Mitch Smeykal of the Okeechobee Emergency Operations Center said the Florida State Parks are closed, but there is no requirement about the boat ramps that belong to the county.

“I don’t see a reason to close our boat ramps,” said County Administrator Robbie Chartier.

“On the coast they closed the saltwater boat ramps,” she explained. “The reason was they were congregating on the sandbars.”

Shes said there are still some freshwater access ramps open on the coast.

“The only reason the county boat ramps would be closed would be because of low water levels,” she added.

Dry conditions mean the level in Lake Okeechobee has been declining. If the lake dips below 12 feet, the South Florida Water Management District will close some of the locks on the north end of the lake.

Fire/Rescue Chief Ralph Franklin, the county’s public safety officer, said there are still some empty shelves in the stores, although they continue to get daily deliveries of food and supplies.

“Unlike a storm, there is no need to have these vast quantities of food stored,” said Chief Franklin.

He said the governor has shut down the restaurants to “takeout” only. He advised community members to call before they go because some of the restaurants have changed their hours.

Golden Corral, Parrott Island and Brahma Bull are temporarily closed.

The county property appraiser and tax collector offices are limited to drive-thru services.

Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs noted Raulerson Hospital is locked down, with no visitors allowed. Those who need the Emergency Room can still enter the ER, he added.

Mitch Smeykal of the county Emergency Operations Center said keeping the population more segregated will help stop the transmission of the virus to those most at risk.

“To my knowledge there is no fuel shortage in the state of Florida,” he said. “The ports are open. Nationwide there is no fuel shortage,” he added.

Mr. Smeykal said it appears the disease is spreading most rapidly in the metropolitan areas.

“We’re 51 people per square mile,” he said. “I think population density has a lot to do with it.”

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