In a few months, the privilege of using the boat launch at Lake Meridian might cost a few dollars.
The funds would be used to help maintain the launch, as well as to control weeds in the lake. The fee also could cut down the number of boats to help prevent overcrowding on the water.
The proposed fees would be $50 for an annual pass or $5 per launch. Because it’s a Kent city park, the proposal must be approved by the City Council before it can take effect.
Fees wouldn’t be charged until at least October, said Lori Flemm, superintendent of Kent parks.
Flemm has presented a draft ordinance to establish the fees to the council’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Committee. The presentation was for informational purposes, and the committee took no action on the proposal.
The draft ordinance will go back to the committee in July for a vote. If approved, the ordinance is expected to go the council for a vote on Aug. 5, Flemm said.
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.
Michelle McDowell, president of the Lake Meridian Community Association, said the proposal now being considered would be “a great thing. I’m loving it. The boat ramp has lacked funds to take care of it. The city had to replace it, and they had to scramble for funds.”
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 to 16 feet from eight 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.
“People still wanted the fee and to set up a dedicated fund,” Flemm said. “We will have funds for 25 years down the road.”
Flemm estimated the fee would put about $10,000 per year in city coffers. She guessed about 50 homeowners around the lake, along with another 50 to 100 residents from other areas, might buy an annual pass.
Lake homeowners who keep their boats year-round in the lake wouldn’t pay a fee. But numerous homeowners store their boats on land during the winter months, and they would pay the fee to get their boats into the water.
If the council approves the fees, the city would set up a ticket machine at the launch for the daily fees. The machine would accept credit cards and issue a ticket for the vehicle’s dashboard and a receipt for the owner of the boat. It would be similar to machines at Lake Washington, Flemm said.
“It will not raise a whole lot of revenue,” Flemm said of the fee. “But if someone uses a public service, they should pay a portion of the costs. If they rent a picnic shelter, they pay for that service.”
Residents who launch light crafts such as kayaks from the beach wouldn’t pay the fee. But if someone uses the ramp to launch a canoe, the fee would be required.