March 6, 2019. The following letter was published in today’s Citrus County Chronicle.
Boat Launch Fees: Beneficial or Boondoggle
The following summarizes comments I provided to the BOCC regarding its proposal to institute fees for launching watercraft at county boat ramps.
Anyone spending time on our waterways recognizes the horrendous access and parking problem we have at our ramps. I’ve spent hours at county launch sites waiting for dilly-dallying knuckleheads who seemed to mistake the ramps for campsites. The frustration associated with the long holdups on both departing and returning segments of my “relaxing” days on the water helps explain why I now fish from a kayak.
Charging launch fees will not resolve the problem. There simply isn’t enough space at existing sites to provide for additional access and parking without filling in valuable wetlands.
New launch sites are needed.
I’m aware of only two areas that, if developed, would significantly improve access and relieve pressure at existing ramps: the previously considered barge canal site for larger power boats, and the private property adjoining Pirates Point Community Park in Ozello for paddle and other small watercraft.
A new ramp and parking area on the Barge Canal would be a godsend for boaters.
The private property adjoining Pirates Point Park remains vacant following BOCC rejection of past environmentally unsound development proposals by the owner. If purchased, it could be developed into a premier paddling, eco-tourism and kayak fishing destination with broad regional appeal.
Development of these sites would relieve pressure at county ramps, while also expanding tourism opportunities. Additional suggestions for improving paddling access are included under the Boosting Tourism link at http://fishingkayaks.us.
The community will certainly oppose the proposed fees. Many will register opinions relative to their application to favor residents, seniors, veterans, paddlecraft users, etc.
Opposition will expand greatly if the money collected is inadequate to produce observable improvements after paying for related administration, monitoring and enforcement efforts.
BOCC: let’s get real. Recognize that fees collected through the proposed program will be inadequate to create the new sites needed to significantly improve watercraft access unless combined with other sources of revenue that our elected representatives can help us obtain. Development of an appropriate mix of programs, budget priorities and funding requests are necessary to resolve our water access problem.
Gary Rankel, Citrus Hills