ANTIOCH -- A city nicknamed "The Gateway to the Delta" will not be gated off from the Delta.
Antioch leaders decided this week to keep open the boat ramp near Fulton Shipyard, putting to rest years of uncertainty about the future of the well-worn launch.
The City Council's decision comes despite a Parks and Recreation Commission recommendation to close the ramp to the public, less-than-anticipated revenue at the city's new boat launch at the Antioch Marina, and concerns that the area is a magnet for crime.
The council, however, said the area just needs some repairs and TLC.
"This is our boat ramp," Mayor Wade Harper said. "It belongs to the city, so we need to improve it. We need to maintain it."
Councilman Tony Tiscareno added that the ramp is part of Antioch's history and that keeping the area active, along with police patrols, will deter crime.
"For the time being, the way it is right now is sustainable," he said. "The one thing I don't want to see is our city closing down because of fear."
A fence and gate will be placed around the property to restrict access, and the city will look into suggestions by Councilman Gary Agopian about installing an electronic "reader system" or other way to let pass holders access the property.
Antioch spends about $20,000 each year to pick up trash, clean graffiti and repair vandalism at the property, Public Works Director Ron Bernal said. Adding a fence and gate will cost about $10,000, and reader systems range from $40,000 to $60,000, he said.
The council also placed the boat ramp on its capital improvement project list, hoping to someday replace the boarding float and handrails, reseal the parking lot and add security cameras. Antioch will also examine whether the ramp is eligible for tidelands funds, money received from the state for leasing submerged lands.
"There's a good possibility that we can make it a positive component to our city," Tiscareno said.
Longtime residents and boating enthusiasts who attended this week's meeting lauded the decision.
Boater and 58-year resident Rick Robison agreed that the area has a crime problem, but the calls for service come from the network of "eyes down there" making reports and trying to help.
According to police, there were 61 calls for service in the area in the past year, mostly for drug use, fighting, vandalism and reckless drivers in the parking lot.
"That is such a gem down there, and we keep forgetting that the property next to it (Rodgers Point) is going to be a beautiful park if we ever get started on it," Robison said.
Sheila White, owner of the nearby Red Caboose restaurant, is "extremely pleased" the ramp won't be shut down, as she feared its closure would spell doom for her business.
"I'm glad they recognized that we do have a jewel, and tons and tons of people that love that boat ramp," White said. "(The council) listened, took the time to come out there and saw that it isn't just totally crime infested."
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.