Wakulla Sheriff

From the Desk of Sheriff Miller:

Spring is almost here, though this year it seems that Mother Nature can’t make up her mind what season it is.

With spring and warmer weather comes an opportunity to get out and enjoy some of the many outdoor activities there are in our wonderful county.
One of the more popular activities in Wakulla enjoying our ample access to rivers and the Gulf via boating. I wanted to take some time this month to discuss an issue that comes up every year in the spring and summer around this topic and that is boat parking.
Currently there are about five popularly used county maintained public boat ramps in Wakulla, along with others maintained by the City of St. Marks, and Sopchoppy.
Specifically, the boat ramps at Lower Bridge, St. Marks, Shell Point, and Mashes Sands are some of the most popular places for people to utilize for boating during the warmer months of the year.
However with each of these particular locations, there is also limited space available for those who wish to use them. Every year parking becomes a significant problem at these areas.
Often times patrons to these boat ramps solve this issue by parking outside of the designated areas, along the roadside, or on private property.
While I certainly understand the frustration with the parking difficulties, and the desire to get your car parked and get out on the water. Parking your vehicle outside of the designated spaces puts you at risk for potential consequences.
Parking on the shoulder of the roadway is a violation of state law and may result in a traffic citation being issued to the registered owner of the vehicle.
Likewise any vehicle that is parked, where part of the vehicle or trailer is in any way still in the roadway is a violation.
In this scenario the owner may not only be ticketed but have their vehicle towed at their expense. It’s important to know that this includes designated bike paths, such as the one at Mashes Sands as well. Additionally it is not uncommon for would-be boaters who cannot find an official parking spot to pull onto a nearby seemingly unoccupied private property. Parking on private property without the permission of the property owner may also result in the offending vehicle and trailer being towed at the owners expense.
Lastly, parking within the designated parking lots, but doing so in a way that impedes or blocks traffic to other users, may result in the offending vehicle being towed.
It should be noted that in the scenarios listed above the decision to tow or not tow a vehicle, is based on the safety of others using the roadway, owners request etc., not in an effort to punish any individual.
Over the past several years Wakulla County has dedicated quite a bit of resources into improving the boat ramps and parking areas providing better access to Wakulla County’s waterways. With that improvement has come an increased interest in them from both residents and nonresidents.
This is certainly a positive for our county over all, improving both quality of life for residents and helping our local economy.
However, it’s important for everyone to know the rules and avoid any potential problems. If you wish to use one of our public boat ramps, be sure to arrive early and utilize a designated parking spot.
As always if there is anyway I or my staff can help you please don’t hesitate to call. 850-745-7100, or call 911 for emergencies.

Jared Miller is sheriff of Wakulla County.