Boaters could be charged fee to use St. Johns County's public boat ramps

County leaders considering user fee in order to free up money in general fund

St. Johns County leaders are looking into possibly charging boaters a fee to use public boat ramps. 

The goal would be to reduce the financial drain on the county's general fund, which is used to cover most of the costs of maintaining the ramps.

Across St. Johns County, there are 12 boat ramps that are open to the public free of charge. For some boaters, the ramps are part of a routine.

"I use the ramp here at Palmo (Road) probably once or twice a week," St. Johns County resident Brandon McIntosh said.

Currently, the boat ramp program and maintenance is funded through two channels, totaling $244,000.

Boater registration fees cover $60,000, and the county's general fund makes up the rest of the remaining $184,000. 

During a commission meeting this week, the county’s budgeting staff said a $5 user fee could cover the money coming from the county's fund and, ultimately, put the responsibility of maintaining the ramps on county and out-of-county boaters. The budgeting staff also discussed the possibility of an annual pass for residents.

Robert Walsh, who comes to St. Johns County from Macclenny, said he wouldn’t mind paying a daily fee. 
"If it’s going to go to keep the ramps' maintenance up and stuff, I am all for it," Walsh said. "I think I talk for a bunch of fishermen. We are willing to do that. It is our little bit of helping, you know?"  

St. Johns County resident Mac Tuttle, who uses one of the ramps every day, hopes there’s a different solution.

"For somebody like me, it would be ridiculous to have to pay $5 to $10 every single day to use it, and sometimes multiple times per day, you know?" Tuttle said.

Commissioners did not make any decisions this week, but they asked county staff to explore different user fee options, which will likely be presented sometime in the next few months. 

About the Author: