UPDATE The Florida Fish ad Wildlife Conservation Commission has released the following statement.
“Today, a group of citizens and stakeholders charged to make recommendations to FWC’s Boating Advisory Council considered a proposal for expanding vessel registration to non-motorized boats in Florida. 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. 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.” – Nick Wiley, FWC Executive Director
A state advisory group may explore whether to charge registration and licensing fees on canoes, kayaks and paddle boards.
That special panel is set to meet Wednesday in Orlando to decide whether to make the recommendation to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Paddle boarding in Jupiter and taking in the scenery is like nowhere else, “It was a real peaceful freedom,” said Linda Wagner, of West Palm Beach, after paddle boarding near the Jupiter Inlet with her niece, Alli Thomas.
It was Thomas’s first time on a paddle board. They rented theirs from the Jupiter Outdoor Center on Love Street. “It was a blast,” said Alli. “Love it. I wish i would have done it sooner.”
But both women agree, if the cost to rent paddle boards goes up, they’d probably think twice about sharing this experience.
“If I'm coming from out of state with my family, is it worth it for my kids? Is it better than a beach day?” said Thomas.
That could be the case if a state boating panel recommends paddle boards, kayaks and canoes be licensed.
Jupiter Water Sports director Ryan Sullivan would have have to pay to register every one of his 25 paddle boards and 20 kayaks. “Multiply that by the amount of water crafts that we have, multiply that by years in business, that's going to subtract from our bottom line,” explained Sullivan.
Supporters of the fees argue they will generate money for the state: for grants, law enforcement and boating safety initiatives.
“We would hate for those funds to be wasted, or squandered, on non-paddling and non-industry specific programs,” said Sullivan. “If this is going to go to help power boaters and grants that aren't related to our industry, I just think it's money not well spent.”
This possible recommendation is in the very early stages and details, including costs and fees, are still being worked out.
Implementing it would ultimately require approval by the state legislature.