Paddling the paddlers

Too many paddleboards have made the city consider clamping down on lake users.

Too many paddleboards have made the city consider clamping down on lake users.

Tim Freed

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Stand-up paddleboard tours and other Winter Park businesses using the city’s chain of lakes could face stricter regulations in coming months.

The Winter Park Lakes and Waterways Advisory Board discussed the idea of tighter regulations last month in response to overcrowding and safety concerns issued during a City Commission meeting in June.

Public Works Assistant Director Don Marcotte mentioned the ongoing issues to the Board at its August meeting, and introduced the idea of a possible change in the regulations.

“It’s kind of questionable whether we can regulate that, and if we can, how should we go about doing that,” Marcotte said.

Residents questioned the current codes regulating non-motorized vehicles in lakes during a City Commission meeting in late June, which included the approval of a new lakeside shopping center with a paddleboard shop on Lake Killarney.

“People buy boards, try them out and take them home and want to come back to the same place again; I think that is a concern,” said resident Conrad Necrason. “I think the way you have it written, not only for paddleboards but for non-motorized vessels of all kinds — any amount at any time combined whether its canoes, kayaks, sailboats or whatever — I think it invites too many all at once.”

“I just think it’s a big safety concern.”

Industry statistics indicate the possibility of even more paddleboard riders entering waters in the coming years. More than 1.2 million people tried the recreational sport in 2011, 18 percent more than the previous year, according to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).

Statistics from the OIA also showed board sales doubling from 2010 to 2011, earning a total of $150,000.

At the June meeting, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper also raised concern regarding a local businesses using Lake Maitland to rent out a JETLEV R200, a backpack that propels riders up in the air using a high-power, water-pumping engine.

“I have the concern at my own home not just about paddleboarders but about the guy with the power pack that’s got people flying in the air,” Cooper said. “I know some cities do restrict it, but personally I was wondering if we could at least find a way to get fees for it. Maybe by the fees being high enough we can discourage it.”

City Attorney Larry Brown said that the city could pass an ordinance that would regulate the amount of people entering water, but couldn’t see a legal way to charge a royalty every time a business owner uses a lake.

Brown wrote a treatise on what could and could not be regulated shortly after the City Commission meeting in June. Marcotte said he plans to present a summarized version of the treatise to the Lakes and Waterways Advisory Board during its next meeting later this month, where the board will discuss any changes that need to be made in regulating businesses that use lakes.

“It’s been an ongoing concern in this board, so it would be good to finally get some advice from a legal counsel,” said Lakes and Waterways Advisory Board Chair Jesse Graham Jr.