Never underestimate the political power of paddlers.
After it was announced earlier this month that the Michigan State Waterways Commission had passed a resolution calling for legislation to implement a $10 yearly registration fee for kayaks, canoes and paddleboards, Michigan paddlers were furious.
“I had people stopping me at the hardware store…I got stopped at the Kroger, people asking how we’re going to put an end to this,” Michigan State Senator Ken Horn said to Mlive.com.
While the fee would have required legislation to pass the state Senate, of which there is currently none drafted, lawmakers decided to go a step further to appease angry paddlers.
This was accomplished in the form of Senate Resolution 153, which the Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism committee voted unanimously to approve this week. While the resolution does not have the power of law, it essentially states that the Senate opposes the part of the Waterways Commission resolution that proposed the $10 fee. Furthermore, the commission that proposed the fees also backpedaled on their original recommendation. They announced this week that they, “will not pursue a paddle sport craft fee at this time.”
Instead of trying to ram an unpopular tax down the throats of thousands of Michigan paddlers, local officials have wisely decided to listen to their constituents and go back to the drawing board. Nevertheless, officials still left the door open to continue looking at this issue, albeit in a more diplomatic way.
“I think there are probably ways that we could expand this conversation, figure out how to do it right,” Director of Conservation and Emerging Issues for the Michigan Environmental Council Brad Garmon told Mlive.com.
Undoubtedly, this victory for paddlers does not mean other states and localities will cease their efforts to force the registration of paddle craft, but it’s still important. It serves as a case study that as a collective group, paddlers can effectively use their voices to force change and action in our local governments.
Whether it’s to protest a 10-dollar fee, protect a waterway from being privatized, or to prevent harmful pollution from degrading our paddling areas, let this serve as a reminder that we should never stop fighting for our right to paddle.