Registering non-motorized watercrafts rejected
Advocates for ecotourism on Putnam County’s waterways breathed a sigh of relief Thursday morning after discovering a plan to permit non-motorized watercraft would not move forward.
During a small workshop Wednesday in Orlando, members of the non-motorized boats working group, created by the boating advisory council, which makes recommendations to the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, decided to not proceed with a plan to make paddlers permit their watercraft.
Prior to the decision, Commission Executive Director Nick Wiley made a statement his organizations did not support a permit fee.
“(Wednesday), a group of citizens and stakeholders charged to make recommendations to (the commission’s) Boating Advisory Council considered a proposal for expanding vessel registration to non-motorized boats in Florida,” Wiley said. “The (commission) appreciates the work of this advisory group, 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.”
Local outdoor recreation enthusiast Sam Carr, who also serves as committee chairman of the Putnam County Bartram Trail and a director for Putnam Blueways and Trails Citizen Support Organization, said the proposal was an unfair tax.
Carr said while Bartram Trail and the Blueways and Trails organizations are not political groups, members planned to voice their concerns as individuals.
Carr, an avid paddler who owns several kayaks, said efforts to promote Putnam County as an ecotourism location would have withered.
Carr said if a business wanted to rent kayaks, the cost of the yearly tax would have made the venture less profitable and there was no benefit.
“Kayaks have no environmental impact whatsoever,” Carr said. “It’s like taxing a bicycle.”
While Wednesday’s announcement quashed any fees for the immediate future, Commission spokeswoman Katie Purcell acknowledged this is the second time in five years the advisory council has considered the yearly registration fee.