Monday, June 3, 2024

Boaters: It's On You To Step Up

 It appears that the City Commission will be moving forward with the Waterfront Park to be located at the City Marina. In addition to water guzzling grassy lawns and landscaping, there will be a "Pavillion" (note: not to be called a Band Shell) and a children's play area. What any of that has to do with a Working Waterfront is beyond me.  The architectural drawings look great with grassy lawns and beautiful trees, but you have to wonder what resources it's going to take to keep the area looking "Disney-like?"

City Commissioners are promising in social media posts and news articles "expanded" boat trailer parking with at least 12 spaces and maybe 15 depending how it all washes out. Even though the lot used to be wide open to boat trailers, and even though the area just across the railroad tracks used to be overflow for boat trailers, Commissioners boast that they've "expanded" boat trailer parking. Crazy huh? Crazy that they can look you in the eye and stretch that truth. 

The general public has bought it hook, line and sinker. Even most boaters, anglers and commercial fishermen THINK that their access to the boat ramp is safe. What they don't know is that Commissioners, Staff, the Tourism folks and Mainstreet folks are drooling at the thought of hosting events at the new park. I remind you that they close the parking lot for the annual Pentanque Tournament. They close the lot AND the ramp during the Shrimp Festival. 

What do you think is going to happen when the Farmers Market is moved to the Park? When Sounds on Centre is moved to the Park? When the Chili Cook-off is moved to the park?  When music events are held at the "pavilion"? Will Commissioners lean towards "public safety"  and close the parking lot or maintain boater access?

I've been aggravated, disgruntled, pissed, and even crest fallen about this issue. But almost at the same level, I've been more disappointed in the angling and boating community for their apathy towards their access to our public waters. When the vote for moving forward to fund the park was decided on there were 4 Captains that showed up at the meeting and spoke:  Capt Terry Lacosse (in his 70's).  Capt Scott Stewart (in his 70's). Myself (67), and Capt Allen Mills (in his mid 60's). These older Captains may still keep on fishing (as a livelihood) for years to come. but eventually some of the younger guys and the general boating public need to get involved and fight for access. Lack of access to the water will have a bigger effect on them, and you would think they may want their kids to have access to the water. 

Just my opinion, but boaters and anglers tend NOT to be activists. They want to get out on the water,
enjoy boating or fishing, and be left alone. But sometimes you gotta step up. YOUR access to the City Marina boat ramp is being threatened. Dee Dee Bartels boat ramp is dangerous with a strong west wind blowing, and damaging to your boat on any given day. Sawpit Creek boat ramp is falling apart with Park management seemingly ambivalent about it. Goffisnville park is a nightmare to use on an outgoing tide. ALL of those ramps have the bare minimum of dock space. You pay taxes. You deserve better. 

I don't know him. Never met him personally. But Commissioner David Sturges is the ONLY Commissioner that voted against the waterfront park. The City elections coming up will pit supposedly "conservative" incumbent candidates versus left leaning eco nuts. Unfortunately most of those incumbent candidates are pushing the waterfront park and squeezing your access to the water. It's going to be a tough pick for boaters. 

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