May 19, 2019. The following are additional comments provided to the Citrus County Board of Commissioners on subject proposal.
to elaborate on the comments I made at the May 14, 2019 BOCC meeting regarding
your proposal to impose launch fees at county boat ramps. I previously
submitted written comments on this proposal (copy provided below), and chose to
focus my spoken comments on the need to hold public hearings on subject proposal
prior to any vote, and to expedite the development of the new marina on the
northern shore of the Cross Florida Barge Canal just west of the Hwy 19
time I submitted my written comments, I did not realize that a BOCC vote to
implement the proposal was planned for May 14, prior to conducting public
hearings around the county to gather community input. If I’m not mistaken, the
only public hearing on the proposed fee program was held at your May 14 meeting,
and that one wasn’t announced in the Chronicle until the day before. I know at
least three folks with strong views on the fee proposal who could not attend
because of the short notice and other commitments. I only found out about it
four days before your meeting when I clicked on your agenda (which the great
majority of folks in the community don’t do).
I try to
keep up on current events, but was not aware of related workshops that you
indicate have been held. Were these announced in the Chronicle? I urge the
BOCC to hold at least two or three well publicized (in the Chronicle) hearings
to gather community input before voting on any particular combination of fees
and related measures, whether or not they are implemented in full or phased
surprised when Commissioner Kitchen spoke out against even holding a public
comment period following subject presentation, and appreciate Chairman Kinnard’s
decision allowing it to proceed. In my 35 years of government service, I’ve
held several public hearings that I would have just as soon skipped, because I
considered them part of my job. The public deserves its chance to speak,
whether you like what they have to say or not. You never know when someone
alerts you to some unintended consequence of a program that you haven’t thought
second issue, I suggested that you redirect and expedite your efforts to obtain
funding for the development of the new boat marina on the barge canal. Anyone
who spends time on the water between Yankeetown and Chassahowitzka knows what a
mess we have at our county ramps. No amount of fee money collected and spent on
our existing ramps is going to resolve this problem because of space limitations
and environmental considerations, including manatee protection concerns. We
need to address the forest while treating a few diseased trees.
retired to Citrus County 13 years ago, one of my first purchases was a motorized
jon boat to access county waters. After several occasions waiting in line to
launch, and than again to reload, I sold my boat and learned how to fish from a
kayak, so that I could escape the chaos and enjoy a relaxing day on the water
instead of a frustrating one. I’ve put in my kayak and fished most of our
county’s lakes, rivers and inland areas, created and manage the Nature Coast
Kayak Fishers and related website (fishingkayaks.us),
and am very familiar with our water access and related parking problems.
the only solution to resolving our water access / parking problem is for one or
more new facilities to be created in the county, and the the most logical place
for one is on the barge canal.
Capital Improvement Program includes a $5 million entry for the design and
construction of the new marina (Project 2007-07). However, it is one of more
than 150 projects to be considered for funding over the next five years, at a
total cost of more than $258 million. I regard the CIP as little more than a
“wish list”, akin to a child’s list of 20 things they want from Santa next
Christmas, but expecting to get maybe two or three. As I understand it, if the
marina is not funded during the five year period, it would be pushed out of the
planning period, and, even if it is funded, it would not be operational until
2023 at the earliest.
I’m mistaken, but I can’t see that any requests for grants to fund the marina
through the Federal Gulf Coast Restoration Fund (RESTORE Act) and Florida State
Boating Improvement Program, have been submitted. Project 2019-02 in your CIP
shows no future RESTORE funds even contemplated for the marina in the next five
years. Neither, as far as I can see, has the BOCC, Representative Massullo or
Senator Simpson placed priority on this project when requesting earmarks through
the state budget, as they have with many other county priorities.
year career as a biologist and Program Manager administering an annual $70
million outdoor recreation appropriation and associated grant program at the
Department of the Interior, provided me with insight into the budget formulation
process. Like you, I’ve had to decide which of many competing and worthwhile
programs and projects to fund given budgetary constraints. I understand the
desire to seek revenue wherever it can be found.
be long before the new parkway will be operational. The red tide and blue-green
algae problems to the south have severely impacted sport fisheries, resulting in
the imposition of catch-release only regulations, and an increasing number of
anglers heading north for a chance to bring home a fresh fish dinner for their
families. Increasing numbers of active adults settling down in The Villages,
Top of the World and other nearby retirement communities will be looking for the
kind of quality water-based experiences that Citrus County can provide.
I’m a big
advocate of the user-pays concept for funding projects, and believe that a
sensible boat launch fee program coupled with a new Cross Florida Barge Canal
marina could go a long way toward relieving stress at our ramps. Your fee
program by itself will allow for limited maintenance and small improvements
projects only, without relieving the stress that our private boat owners,
fishing captains, kayak businesses and tourists face each year.
conclusion, I’d like to make one more pitch to have BOCC staff contact Mr.
George Decker, owner of the property adjoining Pirates Cove in Ozello, to
discuss acquiring or leasing his property to create an exceptional paddling,
small watercraft and ecotourism park, which would further alleviate the stress
on our existing launch sites, while providing a great addition to the county’s
note: Commissioner Coleman, please reconsider stepping down from the BOCC, but,
if not, thanks for your service. You’re calm, thoughtful approach to problem
solving will be missed.
for your consideration,
Rankel aka PackerYaker
Peaceful Paddles, Tight Lines and Happy
Kayak Fishing – Nature Coast (http://fishingkayaks.us)