Plans to establish user fees at the Folkestone Marine Reserve do not apply to those using the Folkestone Park.

Rather, the user fees which are expected to start next year, will apply to pleasure craft operators entering the area, scuba divers and snorkelers.

Speaking to the media after the launch of Arbor Week, Chairman of the National Conservation Commission (NCC), Earl Yarde, made it clear that the recent Budgetary proposals announced by Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler, would have an impact on all Government departments including the NCC.

As a result, he said, the board of the NCC has redoubled its efforts to increase its revenue stream. This would include revenue generated through the implementation of user fees at the Folkestone Marine Reserve, expanding the entity???s landscaping services, and through the opening of the newly constructed restaurants at Barclays Park and the Folkestone Marine Park.

This was underscored by NCC General Manager, Keith Neblett, who also explained that the Folkestone Marine Reserve could generate ???significant revenue???. He further stated that work presently being conducted by the Coastal Zone Management Unit to improve the conditions on the boardwalk would also increase pedestrian traffic coming into Folkestone.

A decision to establish user fees at the Folkestone Marine Reserve followed a feasibility study carried out between 1998 and 2000 by Axys Environmental Consulting (Barbados) Inc.

That study sought to identify the measures which should be taken to protect and preserve the ecology of the Folkestone Marine Reserve. In addition, the study also sought to define the nature and scope of the project to improve revenue generating opportunities for the Folkestone Marine Reserve through the implementation of the fees.

???The Commission has reviewed the Axys Study and has recommended that the proposed user fee should be implemented at the [Folkestone] Marine Reserve. Further, the user fee for snorkelling and scuba diving would be on a daily per user basis and the mooring fees would be a per vessel per annum basis, based on the size of the vessel,??? a statement from the NCC indicated.

It is expected that the relevant stakeholder meetings to outline the details of the implementation of the proposed fees will be held soon.

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