Charlestown boat ramp fee expected to take effect Oct. 1
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.
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.
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