State Tries To Decide: Should Paddle Companies Have To Pay To Use Tennessee’s Rivers? | Nashville Public Radio

State Tries To Decide: Should Paddle Companies Have To Pay To Use Tennessee’s Rivers?

Sep 17, 2018

Complaints of longer wait times and crowded rivers around the launches used by boaters and kayakers have created conflict among commercial outfitters and individuals.

But a law passed to unclog the ramps is already creating some concerns.

The new state law, SB 1335, gives the Tennessee Fisheries and Wildlife Commission the power to require permits for paddle sports companies, specifically those that rent kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. The argument was that Tennessee's rivers are becoming overcrowded, making them less enjoyable for fishermen, boaters and anyone else hoping to spend time on the water.

Chris Richardson with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency said a draft of a plan is in the early stages but that collecting a fee for enforcement and conservation is being considered.

"Because there is more traffic on our rivers, due in large part to the commercial outfitters, we need more manpower on the rivers to make sure that those resources are protected and that those conflicts are minimized," Richardson said.

But some commercial outfitters say a fee could raise the prices to rent a boat.

Small operators, like Neil Newton, are especially concerned.

Newton operates a Paddle Up Nashville, a 45-paddle board business out of a private marina in the west side of the city.

“If you start adding a $2 fee to what we are doing — and everybody says, ‘We’ll pass that along to the public’ — that’s almost a 10 percent increase in what we are charging right now," Newton said. 

The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency is expecting to present its proposal to the state's Fisheries and Wildlife Commission in December or January.