‘Save Cayo Costa’ group wants DEP to hear their concerns about public dock
CAYO COSTA, Fla.– A group worried about the future of the South Cayo Costa public dock has been trying to get the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to hear their concerns.
The DEP pulled a vote for the Cayo Costa State Park’s management plan from the Recreation & Parks council meeting agenda for Friday.
Last year’s draft of of the plan would not have allowed commercial ferries carrying tourists to pull up to the state-owned south dock anymore but the new draft in March allowed the ferries. With no vote Friday, the ferries will also still be allowed, for now.
The ferry boats are from Captiva Cruises, the official state concessionaire. They run twice a day, six days a week, selling excursions to the southern end of the island.
The company said about 32 people go onto the island a day, for about two hours per trip.
The group ‘Save Cayo Costa‘ has an online petition with more than 2,300 signatures to stop the commercial ferries from continuing to take travelers to the south dock. The petetion can be found here. They want the DEP to go with last year’s draft of the park’s management plan.
The group said they are concerned about the environmental damage that ferries and tourists do to the secluded southern end of the island, as well as the sea grass below the water while pulling up to the dock.
Save Cayo Costa has also said the ferries limit private boater access at the south dock. Signs on the dock’s posts say private boaters can’t block it during most of the day
“Although they are bringing the public out here, what they’re taking away is the public and the people that live here their right to use that dock and that’s what’s not fair,” said Save Cayo Costa member Jim Frock. “We’re the people here that pay for all this through our taxes and I feel that we should have the right to use it.”
Although the dock is state-owned, Captiva Cruises footed the cost to rebuild it in 2016 to continue bringing their business to the island. The company said it also pays commission and park fees to the state, which all goes back to state parks funding.
Co-owner Bob Rando told NBC2 his customers are oftentimes Florida taxpayers too, just like private boaters are.
“They just don’t have boats, but they’re taxpayers too,” Rando said. “We’re at the dock for 24 hours a week. The rest of the week, it’s open.”
He also said the boats and customers don’t harm the environment.
“We educate people on the dunes and the dune system on the island,” he said. “Our boats are specially designed to operate in shallow water.”
Frock wants the DEP to revisit the park’s management plan and take what his group is saying into consideration.
“They don’t have a good answer, so they just want to sweep it under the rug and hope everybody forgets,” Frock said.
Previously, the DEP gave this statement to NBC2 on why they pulled the park plan from Friday’s meeting agenda –
“Since the initial drafts of the park’s Unit Management Plan were released for review, the department has received several comments from stakeholders. The department is taking additional time to evaluate those comments and ensure concerns are appropriately addressed in the park’s Unit Management Plan.
We look forward to the continued input from stakeholders as we evaluate additional opportunities to enhance protection of resources and stewardship by visitors.”
The DEP has not said when the plan will be on a future meeting agenda for a vote.
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