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From the Pen of Robert L. Cook

When I was 8 or 9 years old, Dad decided we needed a proper boat to fish the Pecan Bayou which ran through Grandpa “Pop” McGhee’s ranch southwest of Zephyr. It was maybe the best “catfishing” in the known world. Dad bought a “kit boat” that came in about eight pieces of precut wood with a batch of wood screws and a can of glue. The whole thing cost $30. Dad wasn’t the greatest carpenter, but he was what we politely called “determined,” and within a couple of weeks we had that 10-foot boat assembled, painted and declared seaworthy after its maiden voyage in the stock tank. When Dad bought a 2.5-horsepower SeaBee outboard for the boat, I reckoned that we were fixing to get serious about this fishing business. We made our fishing trip to the bayou that summer, and we brought home fish for the family and all the neighbors, and had a barrel of fun while we were at it. We carefully pulled the little boat up high in a pecan tree and smiled at our boating and fishing skills. The next week Pop McGhee made a float trip down his mile or so of the bayou, and unfortunately left our fine vessel tied to the bank, floating in the bayou.That night it rained 6 inches, the bayou came down and the little homemade “kit boat” was never seen again.

Motor or no motor, I think we would have proudly registered our little homemade wooden boat, knowing how much fun we were going to have in the great outdoors of Texas.

Today, boaters in Texas register more than 600,000 vessels with our agency. All motorized watercraft, sailboats and personal watercraft in use on public waters must be registered. Fees average $20 per year, per vessel, with fees varying depending on the length of the boat. For example, the fee for boats of less than 16 feet is $15 per year, while boats over 40 feet in length cost $45 per year. Boat registration and titling is a very important revenue source for us, generating close to $20 million for the agency’s use in enforcing boating safety regulations by our game wardens. Last year $2.8 million of this revenue was allocated to the operation of our state parks, as approved by the Texas Legislature. Folks who recreate and fish on our public rivers and lakes appreciate the oversight, search and rescue and community-based enforcement provided by our Texas game wardens. Likewise, users appreciate and enjoy our state parks, especially those who frequent our boat docks, boat ramps and marina facilities.

Some might ask, shouldn’t “paddle-powered” canoes and kayaks be registered also? Don’t they use the same public resource of our rivers and lakes? When they need help, don’t those same game wardens come to their rescue and assistance? Don’t they use our same state parks, boat docks and boat ramp parking areas? Yes, they do. Canoes and kayaks that are not motorized do not present many of the management problems, resource issues and human conflicts as do the other boats. But, they are using the resource, occupying space on our public lakes and streams and requiring some of the same oversight as motorized boats. On the other hand, kayakers and canoeists need additional public access points to put in and take out along our rivers and streams. Would it be reasonable to ask that canoeists and kayakers help fund the conservation of our natural resources, pay a portion of the boating safety effort and fund additional public access points to our rivers and streams? I wonder if those users would be receptive to an $8 to $10 annual fee if the Legislature dedicated 25 percent to state parks, 25 percent to boater safety, 25 percent to improving and increasing public access points to our rivers and streams and 25 percent to improving our fisheries.

Motor or no motor, I think we would have proudly registered our little homemade wooden boat, knowing how much fun we were going to have in the great outdoors of Texas.

Get involved. Get outdoors. Enjoy.

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