Comments on Proposed Boating Launch Fee

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:   

Good luck,

Gary Rankel

Gary Rankel (
Kayak Fishing – Citrus County (

Even More on Toxic Sludge

November 2, 2018.  The following letter was sent to the Citrus County Commission on October 25, and was published today in the Citrus County Chronicle.

Dear Commissioners:

Jon Iglehart, Director, South District of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), has stated that arsenic levels at the Dunbar sludge site are unacceptable for residential and recreational use in Fort Myers, but acceptable for treatment at the LafargeHolcim (LH) industrial site in Crystal River.  Based on the toxicity standards established for these use areas, he is probably right.

Clearly, an increasing global demand for cement and concrete exists as nations develop and industrialize.  Transporting the material to and treating it in Citrus County may create a few temporary jobs.

Those are not good enough reasons to support bringing this sludge to the Nature Coast.

Mr. Iglehart no doubt knows more about the LH operation in Crystal River than I do.  I’ve never visited it or talked with any of its employees.  I have, however, uncovered information about its plant in Ravena, New York and other locations nationwide with histories of excessive pollutant emissions.  I’ve also come across articles describing disturbing activities at its plant in Syria to keep it operational, leading to criminal investigations and an indictment of the company this year by the Paris High Court in France.

Are we to trust LH to take all necessary steps to keep the sludge from leaching into a water supply that already contains high concentrations of arsenic?

Mr. Iglehart asks us to trust his depleted and underfunded DEP to provide proper environmental safeguards and oversight of the sludge treatment process, while shifting the blame for its abysmal watershed mismanagement record throughout the state.  Who then, bears responsibility for the deterioration of the Everglades, and the toxic guacamole-like summer slime events originating in Lake Okeechobee that have become the new normal, with devastating effects on once world class fisheries, tourism and outdoor recreation in the adjoining St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and distant communities on both east and west coasts.

Why on earth would anyone elected to serve the best interests of Citrus County support bringing this toxic material here?  Just to create a few temporary jobs?

You have to wonder if some form of political payback is in play.  I wonder how much the cement / concrete industry has contributed to the campaigns of persons running for office.

Gary Rankel, PackerYaker
1675 N Shadowview Path
Citrus Hills, Florida

More on Toxic Sludge

October 29, 2018.  The following letter was recently published in the Citrus County Chronicle.

Shame on the Chronicle for the glaring omission from its October 17 Opinion endorsing Ralph Massullo, Jr. over Paul Reinhardt as State Representative for Florida House District 34.

While providing a good overview of the candidates positions on various issues, it failed to mention their positions on the proposed action to bring toxic sludge from Fort Myers for treatment in Crystal River.

Reinhardt has expressed strong opposition to this action while Massullo is one of only two county officials (the other being County Commissioner Jimmie Smith) who do not oppose it.

Voters may not agree with some of Reinhardt’s positions, however, he seems to be a strong advocate for clean water and the environment.  They may also appreciate Massullo’s advocacy and past efforts on behalf of water and the environment.  However, voters should have been informed that their positions relative to the toxic sludge issue was considered by the Chronicle in its endorsement.

It could be a game changer for some in determining which of the two to vote for.

Omitting this issue from the Opinion was inexcusable.  Given the recent extensive coverage of the sludge issue, it’s hard to believe it was inadvertent.

Gary Rankel


September 21, 2019.  The following letter was published in today’s Citrus County Chronicle.

Thanks to the Chronicle for alerting us to the disturbing prospect that LafargeHolcim, a Citrus County Chamber of Commerce member, is about to transport 30,000 tons of toxic sludge from the City of Fort Meyers to a quarry just north of Crystal River for treatment.

Does the Chamber support this move?  How about the County Commissioners?  How about the City of Crystal River?  How about our other elected representatives?

Who will be providing oversight on the sludge treatment process other than the LafargeHolcim people?  Are we to rely on Governor Scott’s notorious Department of Environmental Protection?

So far, Citrus County has avoided the toxic sludge mess that has devastated a large portion of the Florida Peninsula.  Do we really have to treat their befouled mess in the LafargeHolcim Quarry immediately adjacent to the Barge Canal and our precious inshore ecosystem?

The City of Fort Meyers reports that arsenic levels in their sludge generally fall below state standards – how reassuring!.  Who knows what else is in the sludge, and what percentage of it will find its way into our coastal waters?

It’s time for our community leaders to step up and do whatever it takes to keep Fort Meyers mess from becoming ours.

My vote in November will hinge on your response.

Gary Rankel

Gary Rankel, PackerYaker
1675 N Shadowview Path
Citrus Hills, Florida

Florida Mess

August 22, 2018.  This letter to the editor was published in the Citrus County Chronicle on this date.

Articles in Sunday’s Chronicle by John Moran and staff writers Michael Bates and Carly Zervis highlight the horrific conditions caused by the toxic summer slime and red tide events south of us.  State of Emergency declarations, and reports of fish kills, “dead zones” and human health alerts have become the new normal.

Tourism in the affected areas is down, businesses are closing and folks are being advised to stay off the water as noxious odors and fumes in the surrounding air can cause nausea and dizziness.  Long term health implications, especially for the very young, are causing anxiety among parents.

I suspect folks living in these areas will soon begin looking for new communities to live, work and play, and that Citrus County will be on their list of places to explore.

While our waterways haven’t escaped the effects of nutrient overloading and reduced spring flows, we haven’t seen the widespread pollution and devastation experienced throughout much of the Sunshine State.  Thanks to the efforts of interest groups, volunteers and concerned public officials, conservation lands are being protected and our waterways are being restored.

Unlike larger cities to our south and east, where folks seeking to escape the rat race on weekends are lucky to find spots of their own to float their boats and cast a line, anglers here can paddle around near pristine backcountry for hours with only a few dolphins and seabirds for company.

The Suncoast Parkway extension will make Citrus County more desirable as a bedroom community.  The Central Ridge region is one of the few places in the entire Florida Peninsula where people can live well above flood stage and still be within a 20 minute drive of great freshwater and saltwater fishing.

I’ve already begun running into more anglers launching their kayaks around Ozello and Fort Island who traveled up here for the weekend to escape conditions in their home areas.  The stories they tell about the situations they’re facing turn my stomach and make me glad I live on the Nature Coast.

Big Sugar and elected leaders in this state have much to answer for.  Hopefully, the articles will help sway voters to cast their ballots for environmentally conscious candidates in the upcoming election.

Gary Rankel

Kayak, Fishing, Nature Coast, Club, Florida