Interview With Parks Administration The Proposed New Surf Fishing Tag Limits And Costs

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  For everyone complaining the out of staters are the problem with the crowded drive on beaches, I have some news for you.  The out of stage tags or non-resident surf fishing tags issued out of the 17,361 issued in 2018, only 3,989 were non-resident.  That is about 23% of the total tags issued currently in circulation.  This includes one and two-year tags. 

   I spoke with Director of State Parks, Ray Bivens this morning about these proposed changes just to ask a few questions I am curious about and others are asking us online.  

Ray Bivens … “Parks has been trying to fix the overcrowded issues since 2013.  The first thing we did was the non-stacked parking rule and that helped a great deal. We studied other states and how they solve their issues.  We have looked at reservation systems, limited access ties or areas, and other ideas that were looked at for the future.  (I have been to all of these meetings so Ray did not have to explain the multitude of options that have been looked into, I have heard them all a million times and then some.)   

“Parks have been growing in surf fish permit holders by 7% a year on average since 2011, and by 2021 at that rate would be 23,000 tags issued per year. So capping it just under the last 2 years, numbers we have issued is a logical choice. In 2016 parks issued 17,100 surf fishing tags, and in 2018 parks issued 17,361 surf fishing tags. Though tag sales have increased, we have seen a decrease in numbers of vehicle over all for the season on the beach over the past 4 years. Counts are done by rangers on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday during the summer. In 2014 there were 16,645 number of vehicles on the beach over the entire summer compared to 14,670 in 2017. There has been a 12 to 13% decline over that time period” … “In 2011 there were 11,380 tags issued”. While more tags have been issued people are not using them as often to access the park”.

I of course had to ask, because everyone online is all saying the same thing. If they would just enforce the rules etc etc etc, it wouldn’t be as crowded … Ray Bivens … ” Surf fishing is becoming more popular, our enforcement emphasis is we want to see people following the rules and having the proper equipment. We have been able to increase our rangers work week by 2.5 hours for next year which will give us more time for them to work and be out there. We are also adding a brand new ranger to Delaware Seashore State Park in 2019, thanks to the State of Delaware approving this position. The ranger is in training right now at the academy. We have increased the surf checks as well at the entrances this past year and will continue”.

What are some other enforcement solutions you are looking at since that seems to be the public’s main concern?
Ray Bivens … “We are working on getting our more advanced seasonal rangers the ability to write basic tickets, and citations. Not all of them, but we are looking at the state police cadet program, we could use that model for advanced park patrol officers trained to write basic tickets.

I understand the limit at 17,000 due to what is currently in circulation. Do you feel that is a good number or will there be less tags for the limit than the proposed 17,000.
Ray Bivens … We know these beaches have a capacity from a recreational enjoyment prospective, and we are trying to come up with the right number to limit the tags to protect the future. As stated above the numbers seem to work for 17,000.

Another concern has been the free tags issued for volunteer firefighters. Many were concerned about the amount of tags parks gives away. Ray Bivens … “We have issued 1,035 surf fishing tags for volunteer firefighters, which is 6% of the tags issued.”

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Why don’t we have a temporary or 3 to 4 day pass program Like other states?
Ray Bivens … “Suggestions like that are what we are hoping to hear at the Parks Council meeting on Jan 17th or submitted through email.”

 

DSF … Will parks consider limiting the number of vehicles on the beach at one time? 
Ray Bivens … “You know as well as I do that the problems with that are areas like Fenwick Island State Park. Vehicles cannot line up legally or safely along route 1. People already line up and we have to have traffic control out there. I just isn’t safe. While the inlet does fill the Towers Ocean area only filled once or twice this year and is a short drive away. Our greatest capital need in this area is expanding the main beach bathhouse area of Fenwick Island State Park. 

Why The Increase in surf fishing tag fees?

Ray Bivens …  “It is necessary due to some of the things we have done over the past few years and changes in the economy”.  
We added more park patrol officers to our beach parks, all of our seasonal salaries are based off minimum wage plus an amount depending on the skill level of the position. So an ocean lifeguard salary for example is minimum wage plus $3. As minimum wage moves up like it did in October by .50 and again by .50 next October that will increase our costs for PPO’s.
Taking our full time Rangers from 37.5 to 40 hour work week provide over 1,000 extra hours of coverage just for our beach parks which does come with a cost but was greatly needed. 
We have a brand new Ranger in the academy who is paid from our ASF (Appropriated Special Funds budget) user fees for Delaware Seashore State Park. 
We have upgraded multiple air stations over the past 3 years. 
We are starting a project to create videos on how to safely drive on the beach, the importance of airing down, and how to share the resource as an extension of the in-person classes we teach. 
By selling less permits we will be taking a small decrease in income.  
We automated the surf fishing permit system to take the paper out of the process and speed up the sales of permits.
DSF … Special event tags will now be a little more expensive, and frankly already are at half the yearly price, to drive out for one day to participate in an event.  Will parks consider dropping this price for special events to help the promoters and anglers involved?   Especially since next year surf fishing tournament permits will increase by 75 dollars.
Ray Bivens … ” That is something we will have to look into if you want to officially submit that.”   

Surf tag proposal survey, delaware state parks, sussex county
Surf tag proposal survey

If you plan on attending the meeting it is at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 17th, at the Dover Public Library, 35 East Loockerman Street, Dover 19901. .  You can submit written comments now and people already are … Ray Bivens .. “In just 24 hours we already have over 30 submitted which is great. They are well thought out suggestions and we welcome as many as possible for consideration. Being Delaware compared to some larger state I will read each comment and each one will be shared with the Parks Advisory Council We just want everyone to have the best experience they can out there.” 
The public can submit written comments in advance on the Division of Parks & Recreation’s web page at www.destateparks.com/FeeProposal. Written comments can also be sent to: Greg J. Abbott, Attn.: Surf-fishing permit fee proposal, DNREC Division of Parks & Recreation, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901 prior to the Jan. 17 meeting. More information is also available at https://publicmeetings.delaware.gov/Meeting/61600

I know many of you are passionate about this, just read our Facebook page post(s) in the last 24 hours.  Some advice for written comments.  Be precise, concise, and factual.  Don’t finger wag and blame.  Well thought out intelligent suggestions go a longer way than just chewing people out.  Also be short and sweet as possible, you will not be the only one writing them.  Attending the meeting will obviously be an option, I suggest the same attitude at that meeting. 

Huge thanks to Ray Bivens Director of Delaware State Parks for taking the time today to answer these questions.

Fish On!

Rich King

 

 

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