The following is a letter we sent this evening to the city leaders of Deerfield Beach, FL. A proposed ordinance to ban any and all recreational fishing on the beaches there, while effectively forcing citizen and visiting anglers to pay access fees to fish on the city-owned pier, was brought to our attention last Friday. The alert came from ILSFA Lead Committee member, friend, and dedicated angler, Zach Miller.
He's spearheading the local effort there to convince city leaders tomorrow evening at a public hearing that this type of blanket policy setting and broad stroke law-making is in dire need of public scrutiny, careful consideration, and most importantly, justification. He just advised us there is a healthy contingent of concerned, level-headed, taxpaying, recreational license carrying citizens and anglers planning to attend.
Whether or not you're an angler, or live in Deerfield Beach, instances like this should cause you some level of concern about the type of important and wide-reaching decisions being made every day that in one way or another, might directly affect daily life for you or someone you know. In the meantime, lucky for you, we're not only paying attention, we're getting involved in the process.
We've been through this before, and our thanks to Zach, Pat and Tommy for being on top of this and rallying the troops. Good luck tomorrow night. We'll be there in spirit and are confident that facts, reason and the power of the people will, once again, prevail.
If you're interested in more information or attending the meeting:
Email for absentee opinion: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mayor Noland and Commissioners of the City of Deerfield Beach, Florida:
Although, we cannot attend this public meeting in person on November 3rd, 2009, due to prior commitments, we appreciate the opportunity for our views, opinions and input on the important matter of the proposed amendment to section 74-2 to be heard, acknowledged and made part of the official public record.
Our Names Are:
Sean Paxton & Brooks Paxton II
As well known advocates for sensible policies and laws in support of American sportsman's rights, we have a vested and common interest in monitoring any proposed policy or sweeping legislation that may unjustly infringe upon those rights. As such, this amendment to section 74-2 to prohibit all recreational fishing from the city's beach was recently brought to our attention, and we're glad it was.
With all due respect, the radical and far reaching intent of this proposal strikes us as misguided and uninformed at best, and carelessly extremist in nature, at its worst. In an effort to uncover the reasoning behind it, our first reaction was to pose the following questions and thoughts:
What could possibly provoke such an aggressive move by a city to literally prohibit its citizens and visitors from enjoying one of the most basic, historically benign, and wholesome, family-friendly recreational activities, that has also been a part of Florida's culture and economy for generations?
What did the Commission base its findings on to reasonably conclude that, 'Fishing from the beach creates a safety hazard to bathers, surfers and others using the beach for recreation' -- to the extent that an outright ban on it seemed reasonably justified?
A few related thoughts, for consideration ...
We can only wonder if these hazards were perceived or if they are, in fact, based on legitimate documentation of a trend in related incidents that would then potentially constitute a concerning hazard. If the latter were so, we'd be interested in reviewing the police or other official incident reports, filed public complaints, other validated documentation, statistics or any other legitimate comparable data.
This forced us to think about whether or not the proposed hazards caused by recreational fishing are even slightly comparable to or any worse than the many others common to any beach environment in the world such as: weather events like rip tides, lightening, heavy surf, over-exposure to UV rays, careless personal water craft operators, boating under the influence, sharp manmade objects left in the sand by beach-goers, naturally occurring sharp objects like sea shells, human altercations, potentially dangerous stinging or biting wildlife, sewage and other biological hazards. etc. Yes, indeed, the beach can be a dangerous place, but usually, considering the sheer number of people making it home safe every day ... it's not.
If 'hazards' to those recreating on the city's beach is your true motivation here, and everything just mentioned is taken into account, it would ironically appear that a more fair and balanced act by the city, on the public's behalf, would be to simply prohibit anyone from using the beach for any type of 'recreation'. After all, there would appear to be far too many hazards for it to be 100% safe for anyone ... so let's just close the beaches, altogether. Better to be 100% safe than sorry.
In comparison to whatever empirical data we can only hope you're basing this amendment on, we'd be very interested to compare it, side-by-side, to statistical data tied to any of those other hazards mentioned previously; to see how the amendment stacks up in the way of tolerance and sound judgment.
That aside, we would urge you to consider the bigger problems this amendment may cause, at the expense of the otherwise inalienable rights of the citizens of, and visitors to, your fair city. For instance ...
By forcing anglers to pay fees to fish from the city-owned pier, there is a growing perception that purely economic drivers are behind this amendment.
Inevitably, there will be an over-crowding issue with an already over-crowded pier that will surely result in conflicts between those having to now fight for their 24 inches or so of rail space. By the way, not everyone likes to fish from a pier. We, personally, can't stand it. Forcing all anglers to do so under the guise of, 'at least they get to fish' doesn't cut it. Not even close.
On that note, there must be a capacity limit for the pier so there will no doubt be times when license-paying, law abiding citizens will not be allowed or able to enjoy a well-earned Saturday afternoon of fishing with their family. A pier full to capacity will quickly put those plans on ice for many.
The new FWC licensing requirement for land-based recreational anglers (for the first time in Florida's history) is now in full force. Those more than willing to pay that fee will now also be forced to pay additionally for what amounts to a bridge toll every, single time they want to simply go fishing within the city limits.
Citizen and angler's rights aside for a moment. Let's talk dollars and common sense. The American Sportfishing Association represents the interests of America's 60 MILLION anglers. Those sportsmen, women and children generate over 45 BILLION in retail sales. Recreational anglers impact the American economy to the tune of 250 BILLION dollars, which results in gainful employment for over ONE MILLION people. With Florida being the recreational sportfishing giant that it is, and with its 663 miles of beaches, and 1200 miles of coastline, it's a fair guess that some respectable portion of that 250 BILLION dollars, all that positive economic impact and jobs can be accounted for right here in Deerfield Beach.
In our various roles, and as members of the media, we are often called upon for opinion and commentary, including that regarding the travel and sportfishing industries. You have to think what kind of impact a prohibition like this would have on the city's image if headlines such as, 'Deerfield Beach - The Most Fishing UNfriendly City in Florida' began popping up. We don't want to see that happen and we'd rather not have to comment on it.
On this amendment's surface, and it doesn't appear to go much deeper, there seems to be more legitimate questions than sensible and sound answers, at this point. With that said, we would respectfully urge you to deny the proposed amendment to Section 74-2 or to, at the very least, table it until a more realistic, fair and less damaging resolution for all those concerned can be reached.
Brooks Paxton II
We're happy to report that Zach Miller notified us of the Mayor and City Commission's move to deny this proposed amendment intended to ban recreational fishing on Deerfield Beach. We commend everyone that showed up to speak in front of the city leaders, as well as anyone else that might have sent absentee letters of opinion to them, as we did.
I'll get a direct recap from Zach and post it, but from all indications, this was yet another knee-jerk reaction to limit the rights of many, initiated by a few that would like to have it all to themselves for their own limited purpose. Apparently, with the strong showing and collective voice of reason, there wasn't much resistance before the gavel fell in favor of the right and just vote.
Brooks and I congratulate all who were part of this and a special thanks to Zack Miller, Pat Dirindin and Tom Argue from BoatlessFishing.com for organizing a successful opposition.
L-R: Zach Miller, Tom Argue, Pat Dirindin
Some of 'The Doers' in front of City Hall, less another 10 or so that already exited. That's a solid showing, especially on short notice.