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Fees hike at South Jamesport boat ramp catches boaters by surprise

07/02/2016 9:00 AM |

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Boaters looking to use Riverhead Town’s South Jamesport boat ramp this year have been met with an unexpected surprise: combined fees that have doubled for town residents and jumped to $275 for out-of-towners.

Since the new fees went into effect, residents and town officials said, they’ve dealt with threats from angry boaters.

“Everybody is just pissed off,” said Phil Piegarri of Jamesport, who was upset he recently had to pay an additional five dollars as a senior citizen to use the ramp. “Here’s an extra charge that they snuck in on us.”

The South Jamesport boat ramp, which is used by recreational and commercial fishermen, was previously free to use since it was owned by New York State. Town residents were only required to pay a $15 parking fee — five dollars for senior citizens.

This year, the state relinquished control of the ramp to the town, which added another $15 fee for town residents to use the ramp itself.

“There’s never been a fee implemented at this ramp before,” Mr. Piegarri said. “Now, for some reason, they’re raising money and they’re implementing new fees on boaters.”

Non-Riverhead Town residents must now pay $75 per season to use the ramp, plus $200 for a seasonal parking pass.

“It’s like fee gouging,” said Mary Griffin, a Mattituck resident who has used the ramp for years. “That’s a good chunk of change.”

Ms. Griffin said she was unhappy the ramp was given to the town without the public’s knowledge or input, adding: “I think anybody who doesn’t live in Riverhead Town would have opposed it.”

But Ray Coyne, the town’s parks and recreation director, said the new fees for non-Riverhead Town residents match what other Suffolk County towns charge for their boat ramps.

“We’re here to serve the Town of Riverhead residents, not out-of-town residents,” Mr. Coyne said. He added that all funds generated by the new fees will be deposited into an account meant specifically for repairs and maintenance at the South Jamesport ramp — squashing rumors that the money would be distributed elsewhere in town.

Mr. Coyne hung around the ramp during the first few days of this year’s season to explain the new fees and try to cool off incensed boaters.

“It’s a change,” he said. “It’s definitely change and people don’t like that.”

Photo Caption: Riverhead Town recently increased the fees at the South Jamesport boat ramp, doubling the costs for residents and driving the price up to $275 for out-of-town residents. Riverhead officials said the fees are in line with other town’s charges. (Credit: Paul Squire)

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