Boat launch fee starts soon at Lake Meridian

Starting in the fall or early next year, it will cost $5 to use the boat launch at Lake Meridian Park.

Elizabeth Kennedy and Todd Glenn

Elizabeth Kennedy and Todd Glenn

Council voted Aug. 5 to approve fee

Starting in the fall or early next year, it will cost $5 to use the boat launch at Lake Meridian Park.

The Kent City Council voted on Aug. 5 to establish fees of $5 per launch and $50 for an annual pass. The funds will be used to maintain the launch, as well as to control weeds in the lake at the city park.

“It’s the only lake in the area that doesn’t charge a fee,” said Lori Flemm, superintendent of Kent parks, in a phone interview Thursday. “We also made significant improvements to the boat ramp. Because of the investment we made, the user of the facility should help take responsibility for the privilege to use the launch.”

Contractors for the city installed a new boat launch last fall at Lake Meridian. A state grant helped pay for the $305,000 project.

The boat ramp was widened from 8 feet to 16 feet, with pre-cast concrete planks. Three handling floats for tying boats were added for easier loading and unloading, officials said. No handling floats existed at the old launch.

“Now you can launch a boat without getting wet, and you can tie up a boat,” Flemm said. “And the ramp is wider so you will not drive over the edge.”

City officials plan to install a ticket machine at the ramp this fall. The machine will accept only credit cards, and will issue a ticket for a boat owner to place on his or her vehicle’s dashboard.

Flemm said the city had not yet decided whether to start charging fees in the fall or to wait until next year. Annual passes will be sold starting in January at the city’s Kent Commons recreational facility.

The idea to charge a fee started with a public meeting in 2004 at Lake Meridian Park, Flemm said. People living near the lake, which is just west of Covington, brought up the idea of a fee to help pay for boat launch improvements and as a way to limit overcrowding. Residents felt more boaters come to Lake Meridian because it remains one of the few lakes without a boat launch fee.

The fees will be dedicated to a city boating fund. Along with Lake Meridian upkeep, the funds also will be used to maintain a boat launch at Lake Fenwick Park on the West Hill and a hand-carry boat ramp at Van Doren’s Landing Park on the Green River.

Flemm said the city has yet to figure out an estimate of how much money the fee will generate each year.

“A lot of it will depend if people are honest and pay for the use,” Flemm said. “But by far, we expect most to pay. We just built a boat launch and it will help pay for the maintenance.”

Those who don’t pay the fee will be subject to a $100 fine under the Kent City Code.

Residents who launch light crafts such as kayaks from the beach wouldn’t pay the fee. But if someone used the ramp to launch a canoe, the fee would be required.

Flemm said the boat-launch fee makes sense because the city charges golfers to use the Riverbend Golf Course and charges players to compete in the city adult softball league. City staff initially proposed the boat-launch fee in June to the Council’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Committee.

“We have not heard from anyone who did not feel the fee was justified,” Flemm said. “And we will have funds to replace the ramp in another 25 years.”

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