PUNTA GORDA — Peg Kearns of Missouri was happy to find the beach at Ponce de Leon Park in Punta Gorda open and not too crowded.
“It’s beautiful here,” said Kearns, who has been traveling around Southwest Florida with friends. “We just came from the Sarasota and Bradenton area and the beach over there was a zoo.”
Ponce Park beach, located at 3400 Ponce de Leon Parkway, reopened last week after months of being blocked off due to construction.
“The beach here is nice,” said Kim Stevens of Indiana. “We weren’t around when it was closed but it seems like they cleaned it up a lot (compared to when we used to live in Punta Gorda a few years ago). Now, we just come down here to visit.”
Why was it closed?
Work began in November for repairs to the seawall lining the beach, as well as fix-ups on the fishing pier and installation of a new sidewalk between the pier and the south end of the beach parking area.
“Heavy equipment, construction debris and material storage all necessitated closing the beach and the beach parking lot,” wrote City Communications Manager Melissa Reichert in an email to The Daily Sun.
Construction of the sidewalk was completed last week, and the beach parking lot reopened.
For the seawall, some backfilling along the beach is still underway. The project is on track to be completed by the end of the month.
Permits are still pending for work on the fishing pier and boardwalk repairs, Reichert said.
Why the repairs?
Significant structural issues were exposed at the park during a 2019 site visit from city consultant firm, Weiler Engineering.
Weiler was surveying the area as part of an overall redesign project of the park.
During that walk-through, they found cracks on the fishing pier’s concrete pilings, rot and decay on the boardwalk and a seawall with missing panels and erosion, among other issues.
What about the redesign?
The Ponce Park redesign project dates back to October 2016 for the park which was established in the 1970s.
Some of the changes proposed include parking lot reconfiguration, a new restroom, new pavilions, upgrades to electrical and utilities, and furnishing like benches and grills, among others.
The project hit delays over the years, however, due to issues with contractors and more recently from the repairs.
The Peace River Wildlife Center — a nonprofit that sits on the same property as the park — was part of the original redesign concept but PRWC will now be relocating to a new location on Henry Street.
Currently, Reichert said there is no official date available for the park redesign project to move forward.