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Park Mooring, Anchoring Fees Discussed

Oct. 15, 2001 – There probably will be no local boaters’ rate when the V.I. National Park’s mooring and anchoring fee program goes into effect, acting park planner Jim Owens said after a meeting Monday at the Legislature in Cruz Bay.
Although "we haven’t ruled it out," he said, a rate for locals wouldn’t make sense because the park allows all boaters to use its waters for only 14 days a year. He said that for a boater visiting the park for 14 days, the total fee would equal no more than one night in a good hotel.
As proposed, the mooring and anchoring fees will apply only to vessels staying overnight, not for day-only use.
Park Supt. John King said boaters would be required to use moorings, rather than anchoring, unless all moorings were occupied. "It’s for resource protection reasons," he said.
While no fee has been set, the park is discussing $12 a night for mooring and $8 a night for anchoring.
Park officials called the meeting not only to explain the coming fees but also to solicit input on plans to contract out the collecting of those fees. Seven interested citizens and three park staff members braved heavy rain to attend the meeting.
King said if the park were to go with the $12 and $8 fees, they would generate about $500,000 a year.
He said about 90 percent of the park’s 182 moorings are occupied overnight during the peak December to March season, and about 10 percent of the boaters in park waters during that period dropping anchor overnight. The mooring occupancy rate drops to a low of 10 percent in September and October, with only 1 percent of the boaters in the park anchoring overnight, he said.
The moorings can accommodate boats up to 55 feet in length. Owens said plans are under way to install moorings for larger vessels.
Additionally, the park is considering installing moorings for commercial vessels, he said. This would end the problem faced by arriving private boaters who seek overnight moorings early in the afternoon but find them occupied by day-sail charter boats.
King said the park spent $385,000 to install a total of 215 moorings, 33 of them for day-only use. It also pays the salaries of three people working full time to maintain them. He did not have a figure for maintenance costs. He said the park would like to recoup that money through the mooring and anchoring fee program.
Numerous ideas for implementing the program as well as making it work for both the park and the contracted fee collector were tossed about at Monday’s meeting. "We have no predisposition as to how we do it," King said.
Davis Bemis suggested that the contractor keep a bigger share of the money collected but be responsible for the maintenance. King said the park already has hired people to do the maintenance, but down the road might it consider that idea.
King noted that the park may implement a "bay host" program similar to ones used at some National Park Service campgrounds on the mainland. A boater would be allowed free use of a long-term mooring in exchange for providing information to other boaters and helping them when necessary.
"A lot of the damage we see to moorings is not malicious but caused by people who just don’t know what they are doing," King said in discussing the need for bay hosts.
He said if anyone refused to pay the required fee, the park would send a ranger to assist the bay host.
In discussing whether to apportion the job out among several contractors or award the job to just one, Paul Scarano said that some bays, such as Francis and Maho, see far more boaters than others. This would make them more lucrative in the eyes of fee collectors — "They’re a gold mine compared to the south shore," he said.
King said he expects to issue a request for proposals for fee collection early in 2002.

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