Kayaking Fine

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(Host) Recently commentator Jules Older spent a perfect evening that ended with a $136 fine.

(Older) It was a beautiful evening. Eight of us kayaked over the still waters of Bald Hill Pond. A pair of loons observed us. We observed them. David got busted. A special Vermont evening.

Oh, the bust. Yes, well, most of the kayaks were supplied by my friend David, sole proprietor of a local outfitting company. We each paid a small fee for the kayak, the life vest, and paddling instructions. David kayaked with us, making sure we were safe, happy and not too close to the loons.

When we beached the kayaks at the Fish & Wildlife access area, that’s when David got busted. A uniformed warden appeared out of his well-concealed truck, took down David’s name, rank and serial number, then handed him a ticket for $136.

The crime? Non-hunting and non-fishing commercial use of a Vermont Fish & Wildlife access area. If David had been a hunting guide instead of a nature guide, there’d have been no bust. The regulation could be read that if he’d operated a boat with an engine, there’d have been no bust.

Now, you could argue that it was a righteous fine. After all, the cost of keeping up those access areas is supported by license fees for hunting and fishing. And you could argue against any commercialization of our lakes and ponds.

But, as I see it, this is just the kind of commerce that we need in Vermont. It leaves nothing but, well, it doesn’t even leave footprints. And it isn’t as if this kind of activity is overwhelming an already overused resource. That night on Bald Hill Pond, we were the only people on the water. The only people.

Finally, the way the regulation is interpreted, as long as you’re out to shoot or hook something, you’re okay. If you merely want to help people enjoy it, it’ll cost you.

Now, David had been warned that even though he’d gotten the okay in the past, the rules were being re-interpreted. He knew he could be subject to a fine, and he tried to pay the state the equivalent of a license fee. But they said, no way, Jose. Can’t be done.

So he took a calculated risk, but he isn’t likely to do it again. And if nature guides like David can’t use Fish & Wildlife access areas, a lot of beautiful water will be effectively off limits to the non-hunting, non-fishing public. A lot of it.

One more finally. The governor of this great, green state has positioned himself as a champion of small business in Vermont. Here’s a small business, run by a Vermonter, that benefits the state, that puts money in the hands of other Vermonters, that supports a young family, that is about as environmentally friendly as you can get and it’s being put out of business by the state.

Gotta fix this one. It is broke.

This is Jules Older in Albany, Vermont, the Soul of the Kingdom.

Jules Older is the author of more than 20 books for readers of all ages. His new book for kids is titled “PIG.”

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