Charlestown boat ramp fee ex­pected to take ef­fect Oct. 1

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JES­SICA IANNETTA jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

CHARLESTOWN — Just two weeks af­ter the town board voted to start charg­ing for its pop­u­lar boat ramp, the town now ex­pects to start charg­ing boaters by Oct. 1.

The boat ramp lo­cated on Water Street was one of only two free ramps in the county and by far the most uti­lized. Now an honor box will be set up at the ramp and boaters — both in-state and outof-state — will be charged $10 for a daily pass. An­nual passes will cost $25 for in­state res­i­dents and $75 for out-of-state res­i­dents.

Af­ter the mea­sure was passed last month, Wib Pumpaly, town ad­min­is­tra­tor, said he thought it might take un­til Jan­uary to get the honor box sys­tem set up but on Wed­nes­day, he re­ported that sig­nif­i­cant progress has al­ready been made.

The honor box has al­ready been built and the box, along with the safe in­side it, have al­ready been in­stalled by the boat ramp. Bol­lards have also been in­stalled around the box to pre­vent peo­ple from hit­ting it, Pumpaly said.

All that’s left is the signs, which have al­ready been or­dered, and the print­ing of the en­velopes for the daily fees, he said. “I’m pro­ject­ing an Oct.

start,” Pumpaly said 1 Wed­nes­day.

An­nual passes will also be avail­able for pur­chase in town hall start­ing on Oct. 1 as well and will be good un­til Dec. 31, 2018. The passes will con­sist of a de­cal boaters can put on the left side of their wind­shield, Pumpaly said.

The town has not yet de­cided who will pick up the money de­posited in the honor box, but Pumpaly said it will likely be a com­bi­na­tion of town hall staff and var­i­ous town com­mis­sion­ers.

Last month’s de­ci­sion to start charg­ing for the townowned ramp comes af­ter many years of back-and-forth de­bate over whether to keep the boat ramp free. Some have ar­gued that the town is miss­ing out on a valu­able rev­enue stream while oth­ers have wor­ried that charg­ing a fee will drive away boaters and hurt lo­cal busi­nesses. The last se­ri­ous de­bate oc- curred in 2014, when the town board came close to in­stalling a gate at the ramp but balked at the $20,000 price tag.

This year’s de­bate be­gan in earnest ear­lier this spring when the town board re­ceived per­mis­sion from the Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources to start charg­ing for the ramp, some­thing that’s re­quired when a ramp is built with DNR funds. While DNR gave its per­mis­sion, Com­mis­sioner Re­nee Ca­pano and oth­ers ar­gued that in-state boaters shouldn’t be charged for the ramp, since it was built with new boater reg­is­tra­tion fees. De­spite that, the town voted 4-0 last month to start charg­ing for the ramp.

Sev­eral town board mem­bers have ex­pressed hope that rev­enue from the launch­ing fees can be used to pay for main­te­nance at the ramp and at other pub­lic ar­eas. How­ever, it’s un­clear whether boaters will con­tinue to uti­lize the ramp given the town’s park­ing sit­u­a­tion. Charlestown’s only free park­ing for boaters in about a third of a mile down the street at Avalon Park Lot B. Boaters can park in The Well­wood’s lot di­rectly across from the ramp, but the restau­rant charges $10.

Port De­posit and Per­ryville also both use an honor box sys­tem to charge for their boat ramps but of­fer free park­ing ad­ja­cent to the ramp. Both towns also charge less than Charlestown, with Mary­land res­i­dents charged $5 and non-res­i­dents $10 for a daily pass. An­nual passes are $25 for state res­i­dents and $50 for out-of-state res­i­dents in both towns.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JES­SICA IANNETTA

An honor box has been in­stalled at the Charlestown boat ramp. The town ex­pects to start charg­ing boaters for use of its ramp be­gin­ning Oct. 1.

WIKI­ME­DIA COM­MONS

World War II-era grenades like this one can be pur­chased on­line, ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice of the Mary­land State Fire Mar­shal, but they are ren­dered in­ert.

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