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Photo by Rick Caroselli
Photo by Rick Caroselli

Florida Anchoring: So Who Owns the Sunset?

Quick, what do Ponce de Leon, Osceola, Harry Truman, Ernest Hemingway, and Jimmy Buffet all have in common? They traveled in, and anchored their boats on the waterways of Florida.

From the time of the first European settlers 450 years ago, people have enjoyed the beautiful coastal waters of the Sunshine State. Its unique peninsular geography and mild climate make it the top destination for boaters, fishermen, and sailors who travel through at a leisurely pace, taking in the culture of the many towns as they go. Still others use it as a staging ground on their way to the Bahamas and Caribbean.

But if a number of state representatives in Tallahassee have their way, local communities will soon have the authority to create ‘no anchor zones’ around their counties and towns, which the Fish & Wildlife Commission will be charged with enforcing. Why would they do this, you ask? These visitors make contributions to the state’s economy buying fuel, food, repairs, and parts. They patronize restaurants, bookstores, hotels, and movie theaters. This tourist trade enables Florida to be among the fortunate few in the US who don’t charge income tax. So what’s the beef here? You would think the towns would want more boaters to come and anchor.

Apparently, it’s about who owns the view.

Some of the waterfront homeowners don’t appreciate boats anchoring in the waters bordering their properties and have pressured their representatives to enact legislation that would allow them to create no anchor zones.

Meanwhile, the FWC has held three public meetings on this subject and is preparing to release the results of their second online stakeholder survey on potential legislation authorizing local governments authority to do just that. They are trying to determine public sentiment on which direction to go. They are, after all, a public agency, tasked with managing public land and water in everyone’s best interest and, from their press release, “We are committed to a robust dialogue seeking balance between boating interests and local governments in an effort to identify points of consensus and to help resolve some of these issues.”

So if you’re a boater who enjoys cruising and anchoring in Florida, it’s time for some robust dialogue! You need to stand up and be heard NOW. There are far more waterfront homeowners who vote, than boaters who can’t. Some homeowners view boaters as a nuisance and don’t want them in their sunset view. “You don’t pay waterfront property tax so get the hell out of my backyard,” said one in an online post. State representatives have already attempted to attach bill amendments that would allow local jurisdiction over anchoring.

Contact a Florida state representative where you boat and tell him or her that Florida waters belong to everyone. http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/myrepresentative.aspx     

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