FWCC’s Boating Advisory Council (BAC) is scheduled for:
Tuesday November 28th, 8:30 AM
Mission Inn Resort
One agenda item will be the results of the Non Motorized Boat Working Group’s effort over the last two years discussing Access, Education, Safety and User Pay/User Benefit.
You may want to attend this meeting and voice your opinion if you use the Santa Fe River to canoe or kayak.
The Orlando Sentinel describes how the state wants to charge fees from non-motorized craft.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
A gubernatorial candidate has mocked it, Florida’s top hunting and wildlife official apparently has determined it won’t happen and multitudes of outdoor enthusiasts have scorned it.
But the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s consideration of adopting a registration fee for kayaks, canoes and other boats without motors remains stubbornly afloat, say critics of the would-be measure.
“It will never go away,” said Brack Barker, a kayaking guide near Gainesville, who opposes registration and fees for small boats without motors.
He said the idea has surfaced, been rejected and returned again repeatedly in past years.
The concept is set for discussion Tuesday during a meeting in Howey-in-the-Hills of the Boating Advisory Council, which reports to the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Council members are scheduled to hear a report from a citizens committee set up in 2015 to consider safety, education and registration for small craft without motors.
That Non-Motorized Boats Working Group of more than a dozen members met six times but was unable to agree on whether to support registration and fees.
“Non-motorized boaters are an increasing percentage of the boating community in Florida,” the report states as it goes on to suggest that “Paying for benefits is already a way of life in Florida in many ways.”
Whether that provokes action by the council is unclear.
“I cannot speculate how, if at all, this particular subject will be addressed at the meeting over and above its inclusion in the working group’s report,” said Rob Klepper, spokesman for the hunting and wildlife commission’s law enforcement division.
Early this year, Nick Wiley, FWC’s director, commented on the efforts of the working group, saying its deliberations were appreciated, “but, we are not supportive of increasing fees on Floridians or visitors who participate in non-motorized boating.”
“The FWC greatly values our boating community and will continue to work hard to keep Florida’s standing as the boating capital of the world without increasing costs and fees,” he concluded in his written statement.
Soon after, the state’s agriculture commissioner, Adam Putnam, belittled the idea of registration fees for small, recreation craft.
“What’s next?” said Putnam, now a candidate for governor, via social media. “A tube tax on Ichetucknee? A surfboard tax in Cocoa? This has gone too far.”
In a request to Wiley for an updated comment, Klepper responded that “Director Wiley’s quote from earlier this year still accurately reflects our agency’s position on this matter.”
However, Barker, a member of the working group, said the topic was never taken off the table even as co-members struggled to find agreement.
Retired Coast Guard officer William Griswold, a member of the group and the council, will present the group’s final report to the council.
He said reasons to support registration and fees include providing a way for the state to assess and respond to demand for motorless boating, paying for launch sites and paddling trails and enabling law enforcement to know who to look for when abandoned boats or paddleboards are discovered.
Those suggestions have been countered by opponents of registration and fees as unneeded or not wanted.
Also a contention of registration opponents is that paddlers regularly pay fees for outings when entering county, state and federal parks.
“There is a great resistance to imposing a fee,” Griswold said Wednesday.
Asked what to expect of the council when it meets in Howey-in-the-Hills, he said, “That remains to be seen.”
Another member of the council, Tallahassee lawyer David Childs, said registration and fees would help ensure paddlers’ continued enjoyment of state waters.
He said he supports “reasonable” fees tied to ensuring access.
“The state is going to continue to grow,” said Childs, a lobbyist for the power-boat industry. “My concern is that we have enough access for the general public to water so they can go out there and enjoy.”