My new/demo NDK Explorer HV is finally officially paddle-able on Minnesota state waters. RonO and I had not quite gotten around to heading down to the DMV to register the new boats and found ourselves skating on thin ice Sunday. As I was heading to Long Lake around 4pm I got a text from Ron informing me that both the Ramsey County water patrol and the sheriffs deputies were hanging around the launch. As we looked at our un-stickered boats and the show of law enforcement muscle, we decided to use the same technique that the Italian army used during most of WW II.....run away. When we made our short run to Lake Johanna, unloaded the boats, and were prepared to hit the water, the water patrol showed up there. After a quick huddle we decided to tell them our situation, 75% truthfully, rather than beg for forgiveness after they caught us. The deputy was friendly and gave us the green light. We were told that we had 15 days after we bought the boat to register it and that we should have our receipt with us in case we were asked. I did not have my receipt 'with me' meaning on my person, but it was in the car, dated 5/15 which would be 29 days, a bit over the grace period. We paddled a bit, rolled a bit, and then picked up GuitarMatt and met the VOR for T Bone bingo night at Grumpys Bar. GM did win a large package of 'T-Bones' by the way which went very nicely with sauteed potatoes and asparagus on the grill. Yesterday I spent my lunch hour at the Department of Motor Vehicles registering the craft.
I hit the small DMV satellite office in a suburb near where I work. The folks are friendly and helpful, completely unlike the Patty and Selma stereotypes of DMV employees, probably because its a sleepy office, no 'take a number' machine, and for the most part reasonable human being type customers just looking for help. I was informed that my registration fee would be $10.50 for the registration, $5.00 for the invasive species surcharge, and $8.50 for the privilege of them issuing me the registration. Minnesota also requires kayaks purchased in Wisconsin to pay them the difference in state sales tax, in this case an extra 2.2%. I'm now good for 3 years but a few things about this transaction make me scratch my head just a bit.
I think it could be agreed that kayaking facilities in Wisconsin and Minnesota are pretty comparable. After all, what are 'kayak facilities'? All we pretty much need is a shore to throw the boat into the water from, and we are off paddling. No paved boat landing, aluminum dock, fishing pier, or even a picnic table is needed for kayakers. A picnic table is nice and toilet facilities are a fine addition but we really don't need em. So in a state where the general sales tax is 2.2% higher and kayaks have to be regi$tered..... I should point out that kayaks don't have to be registered in Wisconsin.......where are those bucks going and are they going to improve kayak access and paddling opportunities? The sales tax of course, goes right into the general fund and a significantly smaller dollar amount is regurgitated for roads to get us to the launch, cops to make sure we don't reach the launch to quickly, and other crucial items. The actual boat registration, other than the earmarked invasive species five bucks, goes into the DNR's waterfront account. This pays for all water related stuff like docks, landings, harbor improvements, cops to check our registration, water trail maps, and other sundry boating related items. A 16' bass boat with contoured captain's seats, electric trolling motor, live well, and a 120hp Honda 4 stroke must pay considerably higher registration $$ than kayaks since they use all of the facilities I itemized above....right? Wrong. We pay $24 for 3 years. They pay $31.50. Seem about right to you??
I don't mind a user fee. If I use the parking lot at Meyers beach, I should pay for it. I don't mind paying to park at Red Cliff and and I'll pay to tour the Raspberry light. But I hate paying when there is no return or pretense of return, on that stinkin' registration. Frankly, a few water trail maps (which I'd pay for too!) and a dozen designated kayak campsites along the North shore doesn't cut it. As they say, 'a rising tide lifts all ships' but I just can't see anything that makes me feel good about my $24, small sum though it is. The invasive species thing is fine but if the politicians would get their asses in gear we could limit the amount of cash needed to be spent on that as well. Don't get me going again on the Asian carp non-action. Nope, I have the feeling that twenty four buck and every other kayakers twenty four bucks is swirling right down the toilet vis a vis any noticeable improvement in the kayaking. 175,000 canoes and kayaks were registered in 2005, the year the DNR did a study on canoe and kayak facilities and expectations. My guess is that the study was funded from registration fees. Take a quick look at the report and see if you can find something that's changed in 5 years regarding facilities and kayaking amenities.
There is a chance to throw some of that dough in the right direction however. This week the state finally cut a deal with US Steel for 3,000 acres for a new state park on Lake Vermillion, an island dotted wilderness lake in northern Minnesota. It is pretty much a mini Voyageurs National Park and the potential for island camping and remote canoe and kayak camps along the 5 miles of shoreline is wonderful. There is talk of it taking several years to ramp this thing up to the classic state park mode with boat launches, docks, visitors center, campground with hookups, trails, etc. For minimum bucks however, one would think that a gravel parking lot, a spot to throw a canoe/kayak in the water, and a few primitive campsites for paddle powered craft would get things jump started. Just a thought but a quick note to some of the less crackpot Minnesota House and Senate members might help plant the idea in some legislative craniums. Maybe they could even read the study that we paid for (see above). In the interim, its state land. We paid for it. I'm trying to think of a good reason why people couldn't just head up, throw the boat in the lake, and pitch a tent on public land. Sounds like a good plan to me.