Florida outdoor enthusiasts may soon have to pay to paddle on state waterways.
A citizen panel will meet in Orlando tonight to discuss whether or not they will be asking for registration of non-motorized boats such as kayaks, canoes and paddle boards in the state of Florida.
Jim Wood, owner of the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost, thinks there should not be a fine for people who are enjoying nature and exercising.
“If you’re powering your own boat, you don’t need to be getting taxed for doing that and keeping yourself in shape,” he said.
Wood, 67, is a member of the Florida Professional Paddlesports Association.
“This has been an issue ongoing for quite some time,” he said. “Obviously from our point of view, we don’t think it’s necessary.”
He argues that non-motorized boats do not have the same strong effect on currents, erosion and pollution, as motorized boats do.
In addition to the oil slicks left behind, motorized vehicles cause erosion on the banks when they speed across the river, he said.
Over a period of time, Wood said, he would have to raise the rates a on his 130 boats, if this is approved.
Wood is not the only one opposed to the potential registration requirement.
“The FWC 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,” Nick Wiley, Executive Director of The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, wrote in a statement.
“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.”
For some, kayaking down the river offers a low-cost escape, for now.
Karen Murphy, a Gainesville massage therapist, goes to the Santa Fe River about once a week because “it’s just so relaxing and it’s free.”
“I think, obviously, they’re looking for some revenue. We don’t leave a footprint like the motorized [boats] do,” Murphy said, adding that motorized boats lead to litter in the river.
She said that if there is a fee added to kayaking, she would comply.
“I would just do it, I’m sure it wouldn’t be much. I don’t want to lose the right to do this.”