The following letter was submitted to the Board of County Commissioners – Citrus County on February 18, 2019.
I certainly support the concept of a user pays system for expanding / facilitating water access in the county. Here’s a few initial thoughts.
– This undertaking may be a bit more complicated than contemplated. To start with, new fees will most likely be opposed by a majority in the community. Opposition is likely to increase if the money collected doesn’t produce significant observable results. Administration and enforcement won’t be cheap and will eat into project accomplishments. BOCC may want to consult with other county officials who have instituted related programs, and consider conducting a feasibility study prior to moving forward.
– Funds collected may be adequate to support recurring maintenance at existing sites. Assuming, however, that the BOCC wisely rejects paving over wetlands, not enough usable property exists adjacent to our existing boat ramps to provide for a significant increase in parking / access. Hence, new launch sites will need to be created. Fees collected won’t be adequate to create such new sites unless used in conjunction with other sources of revenue (e.g., State Boating Access Improvement Program, Restore Act). The only new areas I’m aware of that would be capable of significantly improving access while relieving pressure at existing sites are the previously considered site on the barge canal for larger power boats, and the private property adjoining the Pirates Cove Community Park for paddle and other small watercraft.
– It will be difficult to get community buy-ins on a fee schedule and decision-making process for allocating funds collected for new projects. Many can be counted on to register strong opinions about how fee schedules should be more fairly structured and adjusted to favor residents, seniors, yakers vs. big boats, launching at less utilized primitive vs. developed sites, parked vehicles without trailers, etc. Accommodating such legitimate concerns and suggestions would most likely entail increased costs and complicate program administration, monitoring and enforcement.
– Boaters / paddlers must understand which ramps / launch sites will be subject to fee collection (I assume the ones included in the Parks and Recreation Citrus County Boat Ramps listing). The several small put in sites commonly used by yakers but not included in this listing would then presumably be exempt from coverage.
– You seem to indicate that all water craft, including kayaks, that use areas adjacent to or near listed ramps (e.g., the large sandy area adjacent to the the ramp at Pirates Cove) will be subject to fees. Clarification on such areas covered is required.
– A $10 daily fee seems a bit high relative to what other jurisdictions charge. The fee imposed appears to relate to launching, not parking. Would persons parking near a listed ramp to fish or for some other purpose pay a fee (recognizing it would be impossible to tell if the driver of that vehicle had launched)? How would the fee be applied to 2 or more anglers parking separate vehicles near a boat ramp who meet to launch in a single boat?
– Would it be easier to administer / enforce a program involving fees for parking rather than launching at listed sites (as per Hunter Springs and Kings Bay parks for yakers) or impose separate fees for parking and launching (as at Pete’s Pier for boaters and yakers)?.
– The method used to collect daily fees MUST be made as quick and user friendly as possible. The meters used at Hunter Springs and Kings Bay parks require inputting license plate numbers (which few remember) causing delays and backups. The last thing you want are long lines of anglers, scallopers and paddlers waiting to pay their fees, followed by long lines of these same folks waiting to launch after they’ve paid.
– Annual passes may require inclusion of the vehicle license plate number to minimize the exchange of tags between users, and / or involve some form of permanent sticker affixed to the vehicle. The pass would need to be removable if one user wants to use more than one vehicle to launch.
– How would ticketing violators be handled, and what fines / penalties would be imposed?
– As you indicated, a detailed ordinance would be needed. Ditto for signs posted at all launch sites.
As an avid kayak angler, my pitch is to place priority on projects geared to improving kayak launch sites and access in the county, including investigating the prospect of creating a premier paddling, eco-tourism and kayak fishing destination with regional appeal at Ozello Community Park through the acquisition of the adjoining private property (see attached overview of area). For what it’s worth, a fairly comprehensive set of related recommendations is included on my website: http://fishingkayaks.us/no-motor-zone.