WEEKI WACHEE, Fla. — Big changes are coming to the Weeki Wachee River. The state park has cut back on the number of kayakers allowed on the river each day in an effort to reduce the amount of garbage those kayakers leave behind.
- Large number of kayakers, trash cause "traffic jam"
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection directing changes
- Only 280 kayaks each day will be allowed, per new policy
It's something residents have been fighting for.
“It’s a long time coming,” Tracy Dust said.
Dust has lived on the Weeki Wachee River for 30 years.
“The only reason we’re on this coast is because of that river. It’s old Florida,” he explained.
But over the years, he’s noticed a change
As more and more people head out on the water, he said they’re leaving behind trash, pushing more sand in the river, and causing quite the traffic jam.
“We can almost walk across the river on kayaks from time to time, it’s so busy,” Dust said.
Calling for change
It’s why Dust and so many others on the river pushed county and state leaders to make a change. Now, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is taking action.
At one point, there were no restrictions for kayaks from Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Sometimes 900 or more could be found on the river.
The state park had cut back the number of kayaks they launched to about 400 each day. Now, with direction from the DEP, they’re only launching 280 people per day, regardless of the type of kayak they’re in.
“It’s a considerable number. It’s going to make a lot of difference,” Dust explained.
The new policy went into effect Friday and some people say they’ve definitely noticed a difference.
“My son and I paddled from here all the way up to the state park. The difference in the amount of garbage on the river was unbelievable,” Dan Gill said.
Residents say Rep. Wilton Simpson played a key role in making this change happen.
Other changes being considered
The DEP is also looking at different pickup options for people who launch from the state park. Currently, the main pickup location is at Rogers Park, but they’re looking at potentially having another take-out location within state park boundaries, giving visitors a shorter kayaking experience to enjoy.
Hernando County Commissioners also asked for a carrying capacity study to be done on the river, which is still underway.