Destin looks to slow boaters in Joe’s Bayou

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A part of the popular Joe’s Bayou soon could be designated as an idle-speed/no-wake boating safety zone.

TONY JUDNICH @Tonyjnwfdn

DESTIN — A part of the popular Joe’s Bayou soon could be designated as an idle-speed/no-wake boating safety zone.

The Destin City Council on Monday approved the first reading of an ordinance to establish the zone immediately adjacent to the city-owned Joe’s Bayou Recreation Area Boat Ramp and Kayak Launch.

The proposed zone would extend 500 feet in an arc-shape from the ramp. Its boundaries might be marked with buoys or pilings early next year.

The bayou is often congested with vessels, with many of them driven too fast. That increased the likelihood of boating accidents, Destin officials said.

During Monday’s meeting, Councilman Cyron Marler said he has received numerous complaints from property owners who live by the bayou and often see the dangerous boating conditions. He then shared a memory of his and Councilman Tuffy Dixon’s earlier days.

“Back in the day when I and Mr. Dixon were young, you could pull water skiers all around that area,” Marler said. “I personally think the entire bayou should be no wake. Some of these (speeding boaters) are residents.”

“I agree with you,” said Lance Johnson, the city’s parks and recreation director.

The state allows municipalities to establish idle-speed/no-wake zones by ordinance — and without additional approval from agencies like the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — within 500 feet of public boat ramps, according to city information.

However, the FWC would be involved in marking a boating safety zone.

The council could adopt the ordinance at its Dec. 18 meeting, city spokesman Doug Rainer said Wednesday. Following the codification of the ordinance, the city would be able to apply to the FWC for a Florida Uniform Waterway Marker permit.

“Realistically, it’s a two-month process to have the FWC approve it,” Johnson told the council Monday.

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