Free ride will stay for canoes and boats in Florida

Going for a sunset paddle in the Florida Keys apparently will not require a boat registration any time soon.
Going for a sunset paddle in the Florida Keys apparently will not require a boat registration any time soon. Keynoter file

Canoes and kayaks need paddles but apparently won’t need a Florida registration in the foreseeable future.

A state advisory panel, the Non-Motorized Boats Working Group, met Wednesday and Thursday in Orlando to “discuss user pay [and] user benefits in reference to priority issues related to access, safety and education....”

Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that oversees the paddle-sports advisory board, scuttled the registration idea Thursday.

“We are not supportive of increasing fees on Floridians or visitors who participate in non-motorized boating,” Wiley said in a statement released by the agency. “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.”

The use of kayaks, paddleboards and canoes has increased significantly, particularly in water-friendly areas like the Florida Keys.

A model program from Ohio, which does require kayaks and canoes to be registered and licensed, was on the Florida non-motorized boat panel’s agenda this week. Ohio charges $20 to $25 for a paddle-craft registration, good for three years.

“We need to start to get a grip on how many of these boats are out there,” an advisory group member told the Orlando Sentinel.

A 2015 report to the Oregon Marine Board says, “The change that has occurred over the years has been the explosive growth of non-motorized boating. Activities that once had negligible impact on waterways and boating services have now surpassed motorized boating for person-days on the water, and the growth continues to be exponential.”

Resident and visiting paddle enthusiasts in Florida countered that kayaks and canoes do not necessarily require launch ramps, do not cause pollution through gas exhaust, and are less likely to disturb wildlife. The FWC agreed.

Florida’s Non-Motorized Boats Working Group has recommended safety programs for paddlecraft.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206