By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
(March 17, 2023) It’s going to cost non-Maryland boaters to launch at the Shell Mill boat ramp in Bishopville soon.
The Worcester County Commissioners voted 4-3, with commissioners Joe Mitrecic and Ted Elder opposed and Diana Purnell abstaining, to initiate a pilot program that will charge out-of-state users $10 to use the north-county ramp.
The one-year program could be a precursor to wider efforts around the county to mitigate boat ramp parking woes and at the same time cash in on the out-of-state summer rush.
“This gives us the ability to evaluate and adjust before implementing (the practice) at other boat landings,” said Recreation and Parks Director Kelly Rados.
The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office has indicated that they would have no problem enforcing the program, Rados said.
Mitrecic said he thought the program will simply clog up the other county ramps.
“We’re going to push these boat ramp users to other boat ramps,” Mitrecic said. “I understand (Commissioner Jim) Bunting doesn’t care where it pushes them as long as it’s not in his backyard … (but) if we’re going to do it we need to do it with all boat ramps in the county.”
Commissioner Eric Fiori disagreed, reasoning that parking is so limited at the other boat ramps that such an idea is unrealistic.
“By 9 a.m. on a Saturday, these lots are already filled,” Fiori said. “You’re not going to take your family and boat to another ramp because of a $10 fee.”
Elder said he thinks the only difference the program would make is giving a little extra money to the county — that the parking issues that the program is supposed to address will continue.
Bunting said that the county must start somewhere.
“It’s a problem (at Shell Mill),” he said. “This helps us track who’s coming from out of state. We’re going to get it straight and we’ll have the ability to enforce the number of boats and trailers there. We won’t have them stacked up the road and blocking, loading and unloading.”
In another boating-related decision, the commissioners voted 4-3 to direct county staff to prepare recommendations based on concerns with special-use boating permits.
Mitrecic, Elder and Purnell opposed the measure.
Rados presented the commissioners with a revised application that would allow a commercial user to request five specific dates per application, per year. Each application would require a $50 nonrefundable application fee for administration costs.
An issue with the application that Mitrecic brought up was the limits on boat dealerships and repair shops since they’re technically considered commercial.
Fiori said that what the dealers and repair shops do should be considered a service for residents.
“As a boat dealer, I consider myself an expert,” Fiori said. “Boat dealers going to ramps are doing a service to residents. They’re not doing it as a straight thing as far as profits go.”
“We need to adjust what we’re looking to do here … For heavier commercial operations for construction, a bond process needs to be in place … Allowing additional parking spots to be used for a for-hire guide. We can’t be filling up our parking spots. We need to identify what is commercial use and what isn’t. We need to go back to the drawing board on this and define these fine items so we don’t impact the community (unnecessarily).”
Bertino said it was “very stringent” the way the county currently defines commercial use including dealers and repair shops.
“I think we need to reevaluate that,” he said.