An idea that was dead in the water just three months ago got unanimous support from Citrus County commissioners Tuesday, who say the best way to raise funds for boating improvements is with user fees.

During a workshop, commissioners directed County Administrator Randy Oliver to develop an ordinance charging boat ramp fees to pay for “boating-related activities and facilities.”

They hope to have the system in place by Oct. 1.

Here are some answers to questions about the proposed fee program, based on Tuesday’s board discussion:

Q: How much are the fees?

A: The suggested fee is $10 per day or $50 for an annual pass.

Q: Will county residents receive a discount?

A: No. According to County Attorney Denise Dymond Lyn, the fees must be uniform to all users regardless of where they live.

Q: Will all county boat ramps have a fee?

A: Yes. The fees, as proposed, would be collected at boat ramps on both the coastal and lakes areas of the county.

Q: I have a kayak. Am I paying the fee, too?

A: Yes. Anyone who launches any type of boat, motorized or not, from a county boat ramp would pay the fee.

Q: What is the county going to do with the money?

A: From commissioners’ discussion, the highest priorities are adding parking to busy boat ramps, particularly Fort Island Gulf Beach, Fort Island Trail Park and the Homosassa ramp at MacRae’s.

Q: Why should I pay a fee for launching at one of the smaller ramps in the lakes chain?

A: Commissioners said they will ensure the lakes region is not left off the projects list. Funds from fees could be used for boat ramp repair, or even for aquatic vegetation removal to open canals or lake channels.

Q: You mentioned MacRae’s. How can the county improve parking when the area is already congested?

A: Commission Chairman Jeff Kinnard, who first floated the fee idea in November, said the county could possibly buy property from willing sellers or partner with property owners to expand parking.

Q: How much does the county expect to receive from the fees?

A: That hasn’t been determined. Commissioner Scott Carnahan estimated $200,000 to $250,000 a year, but Commissioner Brian Coleman thinks it’ll be more than that. Coleman said there are 17,000 boats in Citrus County, plus an unknown number of tourists who will launch as well.

Q: Won’t the fee scare off tourists?

A: Not at all. Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr., who chairs the Tourist Development Council, said he posed that very question to tourism business owners and was told tourists won’t think twice about paying the fee.

Q: How exactly will the county collect the fee at each boat ramp?

A: That hasn’t been decided, either. Oliver suggested a hybrid approach, using pay stations at the busier boat ramps as the city of Crystal River does, and the honor system at lesser-used boat ramps. The details haven’t been worked out.

Q: What about using the fees for other projects, like kayak trails or artificial reefs?

A: That’s what Kinnard had in mind when he first suggested the idea, but he found no support on the board. Commissioners all said they heard from boaters who wouldn’t object to a launch fee, so long as the money went to improving what the county now has. They found little interest in using the money for new projects.

Q: What’s the timeline for all this to happen?

A: Before anything goes on the books, the county commission needs to hold a public hearing for the ordinance, which hasn’t been written yet. Commissioners said they want the fee in place by Oct. 1, the start of the county’s fiscal year.

Unlimited digital access offer

To continue with unlimited access to Chronicle Online after this limited time trial click the button below. Offer expires September 30, 2019.

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.

(9) comments

KSponsler

Yet another “tax” with likely no oversight into how the funds are used. Georgia offers annual state park access fees to all state park ramps for $30, less for resident senior citizens. Franklin County Florida’s ramp in Apalachicola charges $10 per day but exempts County residents. I believe there should be exemptions to these new fees for county residents or at least a discounted annual pass ($20-$30) and less for senior residents. Imagine the annual cost of this for local guides, tour boat operators etc. Why should residents and seniors pay the same as everyone else? Our state offers free hunting/fishing licenses for seniors and Military vets/disabled etc. This is rediculous and could limit the ability of our fixed/low income seniors to enjoy local access to a favorite retired pastime......fishing, boating and enjoyment of being on the water. Offer annual pass discounts for residents, seniors and our vets.

sierra1

Anyone who voted for these commissioners last November have no reason to complain.

drandynott

it’s truky incredible that our county’s “leadership” is even contemplating this notion. Charging for kayak launching is ridiculous! I wonder what the proposed tine lines are for improving boat ramp parking and who will be accountable for when the fees are collected and no improvements are forthcoming. Our county needs better leadership and I will do my best to remind our voters during the upcoming election.

MartyMiller

$10 to push a kayak into the water?

lonewolf

Just more money to be squandered by local officials.

Messier69

For those people that have never boated outside of Citrus County almost every public ramp in Florida charges a fee. Providing a nice ramp for citizens and visitors alike is not cheap to maintain what so ever. $10 a day seems a little excessive but for those residents that do not want to pay that a $50 annual pass is a steal.

Miuke Nelson

While I don't object to the fee, creating new parking is problematic. It will only further congest our waterways. No matter how much you build, it will still be congested at times. Ft. Island Beach in particular has no upland left so that will mean filling wetlands. Maybe a feasibility study should be done first.

maineyak

Why should residents pay the same?? Chances are if you own a boat and live on the water, you don't even use the ramps. I live off Ft. Island Tr which has 2 ramps, it isn't the locals who are using them, this county is run by idiots

Miuke Nelson

Money for initial construction came from state and federal dollars. That's why you can't charge less for locals. If you aren't using the ramps then what's the problem?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.