300 Orlando Avenue
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
© 2023 Tennessee Wildlife Federation
Without recreational use management plans, large groups of paddlecraft rented from private companies too often make it so others cannot reasonably use public waters. Photo: Caney Fork River, September 2020
More and more, the Federation heard from anglers and private paddlers that commercial operators had come to practically dominate our most cherished rivers and public access points. Without basic rules, heavy traffic too often drives individual users off rivers and can lead to unnecessary damage to habitats. Meanwhile, the commercial operators had no rules requiring safe and fair operation.
Not all commercial operators are created equal. Some seek to be good stewards but others seemingly operate without regard to our water or wildlife, much less other users.
Tennessee Wildlife Federation developed and secured passage of a law to give the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission the authority to create rules for these commercial operators. Despite efforts by the industry to stop these basic rules, operators now must obtain a permit; meet certain safety standards, including safety briefings for renters; and document how many commercial trips they are generating on what portions of our rivers.
Today, the Federation is pressing for a process to create river-specific recreational use management plans. There are good examples nationwide of these plans successfully allowing all users to enjoy public waterways. But to move forward with a planning process, we need your help and voice in the Share Our Rivers Coalition.
Waterway Safety Concerns Grow
WSMV News 4
Tennessee’s new rules for kayak, canoe rental industry Chattanooga Times Free Press
State Tries To Decide: Should Paddle Companies Have To Pay To Use Tennessee’s Rivers?
Nashville Public Radio
What do the new rules for commercial paddlecraft rental services do?
Beginning January 1, 2020, commercial paddlecraft rental services must:
No fees were included in the final rules but the Share Our Rivers Coalition is excited that TWRA will soon have the firm data needed to ensure our public resources are being enjoyed by everyone.
Are there examples of permits other places?
Yes. In Tennessee, permits are issued to commercial operations conducting business within the Ocoee River management zone. Here is the current Tennessee Code for those permits.
Various regions throughout the country have enacted similar permitting with great success—conserving the public resource, restoring access for individual users, and allowing commercial operations to continue to thrive.
Will the fee be the same for all commercial operators? Won’t this hurt small, local businesses?
Currently, there is no permitting fee. But if one is put into place in the future, we believe it should be scalable. For example, in the Ocoee River management zone, permitting fees are equal to 10 percent of the annual gross revenue of the commercial operation. This ensures no business carries an unfair share of the burden. Operators in this zone, and others like it, continue to run healthy businesses.
Will private citizens have to pay to access the river?
No. This permit (there is no fee) will only be for commercial operators.
How will vessel requirements benefit river users?
Under the new rules, commercial canoe and kayak rental companies will be required to mark watercraft as commercial vessels. This will make it easier to track river traffic and provide accountability.
Additional Media Coverage
Dangers growing with popularity of paddle sports
Chattanooga Times Free Press