Several days ago, there was talk of adding fees, a tax or registration for paddle water craft. Contributing writer, Darin O’Brien, shares his thoughts on the proposal and Guebberment oversight, as well as ideas for actually doing some good.
So this past week the Orlando Sentinel posted an article that the FWC (Florida Wildlife Commission) was considering a tax/registration fee for paddle water craft. This topic was on fire across Facebook kayakers. The lip service they were giving this flight of fancy was that the fees could be used for such things as paying for more law enforcement or other general funding. Kayaks have extremely low to no environmental impact and have no need for boat ramps or other improved areas to launch. Stating that the money would be used for those improvements holds no water for us either. I am throwing the BS flag high and hard here.
If the funds generated were used for specific kayak needs then fine I would be first in line. BUT my beloved state of Florida is notorious for not doing what it says it will. Take for example the Florida Lottery and Florida Turnpike. The Lottery was supposed to go solely into the education banks, but instead now goes to general funding with a portion to education. Poor planning when our teachers now have to buy their own supplies because our elected officials deem the investment of our future as unworthy. The Turnpike, when built, was touted and sold as going to pay for itself. Once that was accomplished it was to be made free and open access. Did that happen? No, the state sold it to a private company. The state repeatedly sides with big business over the little guys. Another shining example of this would be the Lake Okeechobee discharges that are destroying our coastal waters all in the name of Big Sugar. With all that in mind and no specified plan in place I say kiss my aft area for taking more of my money.
Don’t get me wrong I am not anti-government as I served in the Army and 21 years in Law Enforcement. I am however ANTI GUEBBERMENT. They can bloody well learn how to budget correctly and be accountable for their actions. If the state wants or needs more money for the FWC then lets do something far more useful and make things safer for all of us on the water, Boater’s Licenses. Currently if you are cited for an issue on the water they use your drivers license to do so. I have issues with this on several levels. (A) how do you hold someone accountable without the opportunity to get proper education and training for it. (B) your actions on the water should have no bearing on your drivers license.
Set up the Boater’s License in the same manner as your drivers license with training and testing. This training would not be on the scale of a Captain’s License but cover basic navigation and the rules of the water. It should also cover boat handling at docks and on the water. How to conduct emergency radio traffic would also be helpful. Anyone under the age of 16 has to be accompanied by a licensed boater. No one using water craft on closed private water would be required to be licensed. Paddle craft used on waters where no power boats have access would not be required to be licensed. Any public waters where boating of any kind is open then all boaters on those waters are required to be licensed. I have spent my entire life on the water and have seen way to many accidents and injuries resulting from the lack of knowledge. Boats and in particular power boats are just as dangerous as cars if not more so given the ever changing conditions and the lack of brakes. This would generate far more money and make things considerably safer for all users of this most amazing water rich environment. The Orlando Sentinel followed up with another article stating that the head of the FWC will not support the recommendations so we have dodged this bullet for now. I am sure that it will be shot again at some point in the future. I think giving them a better target to aim at is more productive than merely complaining about what we don’t want.
About the Author
The author Darin O’Brien is a retired Deputy Sheriff from Palm Beach County Florida who currently resides in Belleview, FL. A lifetime angler having fished in three different countries and fishing out of kayaks for the past 12 years. He loves to share his experiences and wisdom through the written word and his photography.