There are many great outdoor activities to experience in Bell County from hiking and fishing to hunting and riding ATV’s, however activities such as canoeing or kayaking might be changing due to the proposition of new fees by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Currently, no fees or licensing are required for non-motorized boats in Kentucky. KDFW is in the early beginning stages of proposing a fee or permit for boats without an on-board or in-board motor.
Dr. Karl Clinard is the ninth district Commissioner for the KDFW and represents Bell, Clay, Clinton, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, McCreary, Pulaski, Russell, Wayne and Whitley counties. He believes this will give the paddle craft users help with growth and expanding needs on the river such as access or put-ins.
“We need to generate income from licensing and such since there’s not really any funding (for KDFW). We’re so excited about the growing popularity of paddle sports, we might be able to get money from them to get help for their wants and needs. It will help supply them with the things they need,” said Clinard.
He estimates that the license could cost approximately $10 to $15 per paddler. In recent years non-motorized boat usage, like canoes and kayaks, has surged in popularity. Clinard believes the fee will benefit tourism by giving those interested in paddle craft better opportunities while on the river.
In contrast, Bell County Tourism Director Jon Grace believes the fee could negatively affect the amount of paddlers and tourists coming to the area who are interested in these activities.
“We’re trying to capitalize on a sport that is exploding and we have great potential here. It’s sad to see this possibility and it negatively impact it to the point that it stifles growth and tourism in this,” said Grace.
The Commonwealth has thousands of miles of rivers and waterways which are also used by fisherman such as Ed Lay, President of the Kentucky Kayak Anglers. Lay feels that the KDFW fees will not benefit the people that use the waterways.
“We’re trying to steer them away from registration because you know, that will kill it all together. People won’t register a piece of plastic and that’s one of the most appealing things about it is that it’s pretty much headache-less,” said Lay. “It’s basically a money-grab. That’s all it is.”
The next meeting will involve community members and KDFW employees and will serve as a public forum or discussion session. It is set for Jan. 5 at 6 p.m. in KDFW Headquarters in Frankfort.
Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.