In the aftermath of a fatal accidental drowning last week, Port St. Joe commissioners are hearing a push from the community to address what some see as safety hazards at the boat ramp in Frank Pate Park.

In the aftermath of a fatal accidental drowning last week, Port St. Joe commissioners are hearing a push from the community to address what some see as safety hazards at the boat ramp in Frank Pate Park.

In particular, the plea is for more prominent signage or warning that water is approaching within the two blocks on Fifth Street (State 71) between U.S. Highway 98 and the ramp.

Last Tuesday morning, a truck was discovered submerged in the water at the ramp, a 76-year-old Alabama man dead of an apparent drowning, the vehicle windows down and no indication he had tried to stop.

The death was ruled accidental.

At the scene, several officers discussed the frequency of people driving into the water and noted a previous incident eight or nine years ago in which another elderly man drowned after driving into the water.

Dr. Tim Nelson, who lives on Baltzell Ave. adjacent to the boat ramp, referred in an email to city commissioners to an incident last July when a girl drove into the water at the boat ramp.

The top of her car was not fully submerged and she was able to climb through the car’s sun roof to safety.

But Nelson noted that the incidents happen typically at night and well after dark and involve people not from the area and likely not familiar with the ramp.

After all, he added, it is not typical for a boat ramp to be centrally located, downtown, in any similarly-sized community.

“So they may have no prior experience with this area when they drive through and therefore don’t know the town they are driving through late at night is a coastal town,” Nelson wrote to commissioners.

“If they have been driving south down 71 and cross 98 continuing their journey south, they have no warning that in two blocks they will plunge into the water.”

Nelson wrote a similar email urging the city to address the situation after the incident last July.

“The recent fatality at the boat ramp makes it obvious that we have a problem,” Nelson said.

Readers on this newspaper’s Facebook page agreed, suggesting remedies from additional lighting to rumble strips across the road.

But more than anything, taking action.

“Do something; don’t wait until more people drown at this ramp,” wrote Mary Kay Moran Kidwell.

City manager Jim Anderson said the topic was front-and-center during this past Monday’s staff meeting.

“We are going to have to do something,” Anderson said. “We are going to look at something short-term and long-term.”

The city did erect additional signage at the boat ramp in the past couple of years, but Anderson said more clearly needed to be done.

Short-term, Anderson said, the city will look at additional and larger signage, brighter and more prominent lighting and rumble strips as potential options.

The city has long sought to fashion some kind of road alternative to the current configuration, which has the State 71, Fifth Street, U.S. 98 intersection appearing as any other intersection in the city.

Except in two blocks south on State 71, the pavement becomes water.

Whether some kind of bypass, weaving the inbound traffic around to Baltzell, or possibly a roundabout, in any case transforming the two blocks along Fifth Street south of Highway 98 one-way outbound from the ramp, Anderson said.

“It is such a straight shot” from State 71 to the boat ramp for motorists, Anderson noted.

At one time the city approached the Florida Department of Transportation and Anderson said that alternative might be the long-term solution.

The timing could not be better for addressing short- and long-term solutions. The city is weeks away from embarking on a $800,000 project for boat ramp improvements at Frank Pate Park.