Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Canoe rental companies feel pinch of park fees in Hillsborough County

VALRICO — A couple of months after the county implemented entrance fees at more than a dozen parks, two eastern Hillsborough canoe rental shops appear to be taking the brunt of the commercial impact.

Amid the recession and budget shortfalls, the county now requires vendors to pay a $400 monthly fee to help prevent twice-a-week park closures. The move forced Alafia River Canoe Rentals to cut part of its yearly operation to seasonal.

The company has run shuttles to a canoe launch at Aldermans Ford Park without a charge for more than 30 years. Customers paddle for several hours before winding up back at the canoe shop in Valrico.

Owner Sybil Cribbs said it's not worth it this time of year to pay the fee, so she stopped using the park at the end of November. She said she'll pay the fee in March when the season picks back up. Until then, customers can come and go only from her dock.

Business has declined in recent years for Cribbs. Having to pay the fee in the spring won't help as she tries to retire soon.

"I could understand it a little more if I was parking there, but none of our people ever park at the park," said Cribbs, 70. "We're in and out of there in 10 minutes or so."

In Thonotosassa, Canoe Escape, which uses several parks along the Hillsborough River as drop-off and pick-up sites, is the only company that has paid vendor fees since they went into effect in November, said county parks and recreation spokesman John Brill.

Although Canoe Escape uses Sargeant, Morris Bridge and Trout Creek parks, the county allows it to pay fees for just two of the sites. Still, that's $800 a month.

President and part owner Brian Faulk said the company has had to cut jobs and is operating as lean as possible, in addition to increasing boat rentals by $2. Cribbs plans to raise her prices by $2.50.

"Our slowest six months is when we had to start paying the fee," said Faulk, 35. "So that's been a very hard thing to make up for."

While businesses pay $400 monthly to use regional and wilderness parks, the general public pays by the carload. The cost is $2 per car for up to eight people and $1 for each additional person. The fees also apply to the Upper Tampa Bay Trail.

"It was something we didn't want to do, but that was about the only alternative left," Brill said.

In all, county officials expect fees to generate about $3 million this fiscal year (ending Sept. 30). They hope revenue will be enough to keep the parks open seven days a week and avoid job cuts.

Faulk, whose family opened Canoe Escape 18 years ago, said he understands the need for fees. However, he would've liked to see them start out lower.

His biggest concern is that companies less visible than his use the parks without paying.

"There are commercial interests that are using the parks; make no mistake," he said. "That's such a difficult thing to police. Unless people have logos on their vehicles, it's very hard for them to know who would be a commercial and who would not."

Canoe Escape and Alafia River Canoe Rentals use buses and vans, carrying stacks of canoes.

It hasn't been determined whether fees will remain the same next year, Brill said, adding that it's doubtful they'll be eliminated. By adding fees, he said, the county is following a national trend.

Faulk just hopes it pays off.

"If the fees are what keep the parks open so that people can take the next generation of kids out and enjoy the outdoors," Faulk said, "well, then ultimately we won."

Kevin Smetana can be reached at or (813) 661-2439.

Canoe rental companies feel pinch of park fees in Hillsborough County 01/07/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 3:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Amy Foster is running for reelection to St. Pete City Council


    Four weeks remain before the qualifying period ends for St. Petersburg’s mayoral and City Council races, but one question has been formally answered.

    Amy Foster is running for reelection.

    Amy Foster is officially running for reelection
  2. Departing fifth graders at Booker T. Washington Elementary leave lessons for their peers


    TAMPA — Teaching kindergarteners how to make slime seems like a good idea — when you're 12.

    From left, Tayvon Scott, 6, Arion Taylor, 9, and Nazir Anderson, 6, play with globs of slime they created from a science experiment taught by the Darius Troupe, a fifth-grader at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Tampa. Students at Booker T. Washington Elementary School spent a "Day of Service" teaching their peers in a class exercise on May 24, 2017. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  3. Tampa is 15th-most popular city to move to with U-Haul


    TAMPA —Tampa is undoubtedly a destination point, at least according to U-Haul.

    Tampa is the No. 15 destination for people moving with U-Haul trucks. | Times file photo
  4. Bucs WR DeSean Jackson knows only one direction: full speed ahead


    TAMPA — DeSean Jackson is the "1."

    Actually, Jackson, the Bucs' latest weapon for quarterback Jameis Winston, with his blazing speed and game-changing splash plays, wears No. 11 in games.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buc Place, the team's training facility, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
  5. Karen Bail, who helped Gibbs kids get to Broadway, retires


    ST. PETERSBURG — When neatnicks retire, they leave no trace behind. Their desks are clean, like a runway after the plane has taken off.

    Retiring musical theatre teacher Karen Bail warms up seniors Jonathan O'Brien, left, as Juan Peron and Addam Setzer as Che Guevara before the dress rehearsal of Pinellas County Center for the Arts (PCCA) magnet program's production of "Evita" at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, FL,  April 24, 2017.  The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical ran for three days in April at the school and was PCCA's last play of the year. CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times