Citrus County commissioners say they want a boat-ramp fee program. But not the one that was in front of them Tuesday.
Without a vote, commissioners unanimously dismissed proposed launch fees and agreed they need to have more discussion on the details.
And commissioners discussed funneling much of the funds toward development of a boat ramp on the Cross Florida Barge Canal that the county is planning in the next five years, rather then trying to add more parking at crowded coastal ramps.
The county staff proposed launch fees of $10 a day or $50 annual pass at all county boat ramps. Commissioners said the fee would be paid by all users of a boat ramp, including kayakers and canoeists.
Some boat ramps would have pay stations, while there would be honor boxes at most ramps.
With several kayakers attending Tuesday’s meeting to protest the fees, commissioners spent several minutes trying to determine whether to exempt nonmotorized boats, but did not reach a conclusion.
Commissioner Scott Carnahan said the proposed ordinance provided more questions than answers.
“I don’t think we have stayed on task,” Carnahan said.
While commissioners in February were unified in wanting a boat-ramp fee program, they balked Tuesday at costs associated with it: $260,000 in three new staffers and associated costs, and up to $107,000 to buy pay stations for five boat ramps and the county parks office. Between the estimated revenue and expenses, they said, the fees would net $30,000 the first year.
Several kayak enthusiasts at Tuesday’s meeting said they shouldn’t pay the same fee as a motorized boat because the proposed projects are aimed at creating more parking for boat trailers.
“We don’t need boat launches to launch,” Gary Stocker, of Hernando, said. “Charging kayakers to benefit powerboaters is wrong.”
Jerry Sullivan, of Floral City, held a different view. He said the fee should be for parking at county parks.
“This burden on boaters is unfair,” he said. “There should be no free rides. All pay or none pay.”
Kent Barkhouse, of Crystal River, said kayakers and canoeists should have a different fee.
“The inclusion of paddlers ... doesn’t seem to be compatible to logic for us,” he said.
Frank Kapocsi, president of the Homosassa River Alliance, said the county needs to have a fee program to pay for additional parking at crowded boat ramps.
“We need some help at boat ramps, particularly the ramp out at MacRae’s,” he said.
Board Chairman Jeff Kinnard, who first proposed the a fee in November as a means of adding parking and boat-ramp improvements, said the overcrowding issues at boat ramps during peak times will continue unless a fee program is implemented.
“The growth is coming here,” he said. “They’re bringing their boats and they’re bringing their kayaks.”
Commissioners seemed to embrace a phased-in approach proposed by County Administrator Randy Oliver to have pay stations at four ramps — Fort Island Trail, Fort Island Beach, MacRae’s, and Lake Hernando — and hire just one employee to oversee those pay areas. That would cut the staff costs to $58,000 for boat ramps that Oliver said will provide 90 percent of the revenue.
Oliver said the staff will narrow the focus for further board discussion.
“We’ll get all the kinks worked out,” he said, “and bring it back.”