Concerns grow over ‘Boats on the Beach Program’ in Collier County

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Some Southwest Florida residents are concerned a program that’s been in place for years is creating a hazard for boaters and sea life.

The Boats on the Beach Program, which was launched 30 years ago in Naples, allows non-motorized vessels, like sailboats and kayaks, to stay on the beach in an allotted spot year-round — except during tropical storms.

“We sailors are strongly behind this program because it brings boats, kids, families to the beach and is a welcome site on Naples beaches,” sailboat owner Burkhard Klein said.

Collier County recently planted new vegetation on all of its beaches making the space more narrow. Boats aren’t allowed to sit on top of the plants.

“There used to be hardly any plants here on the sight, but now sea oats and grass have grown into the beach making the space more narrow than it used to be,” sailboat owner Burkhard Klein said.

Community Service Director Dana Souza hopes the city will find a proper balance to keep sea life safe.

“We need to make sure we have a proper balance and make sure they’re [vessels] not in sensitive areas like on top of sea oats … they’re important because they stop erosion during a storm,” Souza said.

Some also worry the program disturbs nesting sea turtles, but Klein said the turtles always have the right of way.

“If sea turtles are on the beach or on our boats, we just don’t go near them or we move the boats to give them the right of way, which they do have,” Klein said.

The county is working to implement a beach re-nourishment program within the next two years that could potentially make the beaches wider.

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