Online petition started to ban commercial boats at Cayo Costa dock
CAYO COSTA, Fla.– Hundreds of people have signed an online petition for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to stop allowing commercial boats at a dock on the south side of Cayo Costa.
The island is nestled between North Captiva Island and Boca Grande, only accessible by boat.
Its southern end, known as “the narrows,” has a dock that Randy Johnson with “Save Cayo Costa” told NBC2 used to be accessible to private boaters like himself.
He loved the area for its remoteness and peace.
“It’s the crown jewel of southwest Florida,” Johnson said. “It’s the way Florida used to be.”
Now, he said, only commercial ferries with Captiva Cruises are allowed to dock there.
The company is the official state concessionaire. It partnered with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in 2013 to provide shelling excursions and day trips to Cayo Costa State Park for thousands of tourists a year.
The dock was destroyed in Hurricane Charley, but was rebuilt in 2016. That’s when Johnson said he noticed a gate with a lock was put up along with it, and only Captiva Cruises had the key.
The lock has since been removed, but other boaters have said they still can’t access it.
“The dock now says that I’m not even allowed to go up to it,” said lifelong Florida resident Scott Allen.
Johnson said he’s worried the larger commercial ferries have been harming the vulnerable environment, specifically by ripping up sea grass and dredging sand in the already shallow water.
“I’m not against having ferry service to the island,” said Johnson. “We absolutely have to, but the infrastructure is at the north end and that’s where the tourism needs to go.”
The petition calls on the FDEP to make changes to Cayo Costa State Park’s management plan at an upcoming June 11th meeting.
Johnson said the current language in the plan would allow for commercial ferries to continue to bring people to the south dock.
“What I would like to see is the commercial activity to end,” Johnson said. “I’m fighting for public access and public access for private boaters.”
In a statement, Captiva Cruises told NBC2:
“Captiva Cruises has provided shelling excursions to Cayo Costa State Park for 25 years and is proud to partner with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as the Official State Concessionaire since 2013 to share the beauty of this unique barrier island with visitors and our community. Captiva Cruises was founded by a known conservationist with recognized efforts for tourism and eco-innovation, and we are proud to uphold this culture of good stewardship for our islands and environment today. Our cruises to Cayo Costa celebrate the island’s natural environment as we educate passengers on the native wildlife, unique eco-system and emphasize the importance of preserving its natural beauty. Our staff and crew receive training to provide informative and compelling talks for visitors, which review best practices for respecting the areas we visit. Furthermore, our guides monitor the beaches throughout shelling excursions to ensure passengers are staying within the state-owned public land and respectful of the area. We are committed to following all DEP policies for the conscientious use of these state-owned docks. We refer further questions regarding the specifics of this contract to DEP.”
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