Slow-speed zones set at 5 areas of Santa Fe River


Published: Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 1:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 1:36 p.m.

Boaters on the Santa Fe River will have to throttle back at several spots starting Friday as new rules take effect to protect the people and manatees that converge in busy areas along the waterway.

Wildlife officials are erecting signs establishing five year-round zones where boaters will be required to slow down to a minimum speed. Boats must be off plane, fully settled in the water and moving at a speed that makes little or no wake, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Wildlife officers will begin warning and educating boaters this weekend, and enforcement will take effect starting Memorial Day weekend, said Karen Parker of the FWC. The fine is $50 for violating the new zones.

“We don’t want to start off heavy-handed,” Parker said. “But if officers start seeing the same people violating the rules, they will issue citations.”

Here are the five zones:

- At the confluence of the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers (Columbia, Suwannee and Gilchrist counties);

- The U.S. 129 bridge and Guy Lemmon Park boat ramp (Suwannee and Gilchrist counties);

- At the Sandy Point boat ramp, in Branford (Suwannee and Gilchrist counties)

- Ellie Ray’s boat ramp (Suwannee and Gilchrist counties);

- Butler Landing boat ramp and the confluence of the Santa Fe and Suwannee Rivers (Layfayette, Gilchrist and Suwannee counties).

The zones were developed by the FWC and the counties bordering the river in response to boater safety concerns, Parker explained, noting that there had been no speed restrictions on the river.

“We received a lot of complaints from people about boats speeding by areas where people and manatees were in the water,” she said.

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