Last month, public users of the Santa Cruz Harbor noticed signs posted around the harbor, informing them that a new launch fee of $10 per vehicle would be enforced beginning Nov. 17.

For years, the harbor charged fees of $15 for any vehicle with a boat trailer and $10 for anything that comes off the top of a car or the back of a pickup—like a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. However, those fees only applied to the launch ramp on the east side of the harbor. The new fees apply to smaller hand-launch docks on the west side, which have been free for decades.

Kevin Williams, a clerk at the harbor, notes that the new fee is meant as a substitute for metered parking there, which has been taken down on the east side where the hand-launch docks are.

That hasn’t made it any more popular with those who use them. Local Craig Stanton provided an outlet for the tide of dissatisfaction at, circulating a petition to give the fees a shove-off. He argued that to avoid the fee, many users would try to launch from nearby beaches instead, which could be dangerous: “the notorious shore-pound at these beaches will put the public at risk of serious injury.” He also suspects users of smaller vessels will now launch from the main ramp, since they will have paid anyway—creating congestion for boat launchers.

But there’s more at stake, according Stanton, who believes the fee signifies nothing less than the end of “free, safe public access to the harbor.”