PROOS: New fees on kayaks, canoes and paddle boards unnecessary

Published 9:20 am Wednesday, April 18, 2018

We are blessed to have numerous ways to have fun in our great outdoors. Families can explore 3,288 miles of Michigan’s Great Lakes coastline, bike on more than 1,300 miles of dedicated trails and kayak over 36,000 miles of streams and rivers.

Paddle sports are one of the fastest-growing outdoor activities in the nation, and paddlers from Michigan and other states contribute more than $140 million to our state economy.

We should be doing all we can to help encourage people to take up healthy outdoor activities, enjoy our state’s natural resources and support Michigan’s tourism industry.

I recently co-sponsored Senate Resolution 153 to oppose the Michigan State Waterways Commission’s recommendation that registration fees of up to $10 per year be implemented on all rigid-hulled kayaks, canoes and paddleboards eight feet or longer.

Noncommercial kayaks, canoes and paddleboards are exempt from fees and registration in Michigan.

Implementing new registration fees on these watercraft would require legislative approval, and I will do all I can to stop these new fees that would negatively impact the growth of an activity that benefits our communities and our state.

Most funding from registration fees goes to sheriff patrols on inland lakes and to state boat launches designed for powerboats and trailers, while paddlers mostly use inland waterways and rivers.

Although safer inland lakes are beneficial to paddlers, increased safety patrols will provide little benefit for paddlers traversing rivers and scenic waterways.

It has been said that the fees would go toward providing fully accessible ramps for kayaks at the launches. However, paddlers who use state launch sites already buy recreation passports to support the maintenance and operation of these sites, and the commission and the Natural Resources Trust Fund board already have plenty of existing funds to provide these ramps. New fees are not necessary.

I have long supported efforts to improve accessibility to Michigan’s wonderful waterways and will continue to support existing resources to help more people enjoy our great outdoors.

JOHN PROOS, R-St. Joseph, represents the 21st District, which includes Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties