Anclote sandbar fight isn't over, users vow
By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN, Times Staff Writer
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Boaters who visit the sandbar north of Anclote Key said Wednesday that they plan to keep fighting restrictions on the sliver of land that include bans on beer and free-roaming dogs.
A compromise plan released Tuesday by state parks officials did not go far enough and is too vague in its proposed enforcement, members of Save Our Sandbar said during a meeting Wednesday night at SunTrust Bank on U.S. 19.
"As far as we're concerned, nothing's changed," SOS founder Doug Metko of Holiday said before the meeting began.
Amy Scott, director of operations for the group, said members remain angered about the restrictions, which take effect on Monday. They are also worried about the vague means of measuring the new policies' success, she said.
For instance, the state says it will rely on complaints by sandbar visitors or state workers about dogs outside of allowed areas. State officials also will look for signs of dog waste, which is supposed to be picked up by pet owners.
The state also says it plans to track footprints in areas designated for protected birds.
"It could be shut down a year from now with their measures of success," Scott said. The state could say, "we found a beer can and dog poop . . . you're done overnight camping," she said.
During the meeting, Metko told about 50 SOS members that he had received calls and e-mails telling him that the state's compromise wasn't enough.
"We're going to abide by these rules," Metko said. "We'll abide by them. We'll also fight our butts off to change them."
The group plans to present its objections to the state through SOS's attorney.
Other members told the crowd Wednesday night that they feared the state's new policies would turn regular boaters into criminals during the July 4th holiday if they showed up on the sandbar with alcohol in their coolers.
The reaction stemmed from new policies released Tuesday by officials from the Division of Recreation and Parks. The policies state that starting Monday, alcohol and free-roaming dogs are forbidden from the strip of land north of Anclote Key. Dogs are allowed on one nonswimming portion of the sandbar but must be leashed.
In a compromise with the boaters, who have protested for months about pending changes, the parks officials will continue to allow campfires, cooking and overnight camping without registration.
About 17 percent of the sandbar is roped off for protection of shorebird nesting colonies. That area could change next year, depending on where the shorebirds settle. In the winter months, a small portion of the southern part of the island could be roped off for migrating birds.
The state announced earlier this year it planned to include the sandbar in its parks management, due to increased use by boaters and protected birds and the growing size of the land.
The sandbar's size ranges from 28 to 40 acres, depending on tides.
-- Saundra Amrhein covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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