Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Johns Dives in on Beach Watercraft Controversy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Johns Dives in on Beach Watercraft Controversy

Article excerpt

ST. AUGUSTINE -- For retired Brig. Gen. James Ramsden,

twice-weekly trips to the beach with his Yamaha Wave Rider are a

thrill and a relaxation.

Riding in the ocean reminds the 61-year-old of parachute jump

training in the Army.

"That's the kind of thing I get from Jet-Skiing," said Ramsden,

who has bone cancer and said riding the Yamaha is one of the few

recreational activities he can still enjoy.

But now, Ramsden is incensed that St. Johns County is proposing

to charge him and others a $125 annual fee to jump waves as part

of a new beach code that went to its first public hearing last

night.

Motorized skis and where they should operate dominated the

first of two public hearings on a new county beach code last

night, with opponents of the machines as vocal as their owners.

"It's noise pollution, it's air pollution and it's dangerous,"

said Alan Parlapiano, a beachfront property owner in Crescent

Beach. "You're dealing with the front edge of an epidemic

nationally."

Dave Williams, director of beach safety for the county, said it

is a growing issue. In 1993, 21 warnings were issued to unsafe

operators who violated regulations in areas of St. Johns County

where the skis are allowed. In 1995, 398 warnings were issued.

That number has been surpassed already this year, Williams

said.

The county took its lead for the new code from Volusia County,

which underwent a similar regulatory process in 1988 and is

still dealing with the personal watercraft dilemma.

"It's a political nightmare," said Kevin Sweat, operations

chief of the Volusia County Beach Patrol. "Residents hate them."

At its heart are two issues: access for the enthusiasts and

peace and quiet for those who live along the coast where the

skiers operate.

In Volusia County, as in the proposed St. …

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