Jet Ski Owners Rally To Lift Islands Ban - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

6/13/04

Jet Ski Owners Rally To Lift Islands Ban

Some jet ski owners say they're being treated unfairly and on Sunday they took a stand to speak out against a policy that limits where they can ride.

At a Sunday afternoon rally in Gulfport, opponents of the Gulf Islands National Seashore ban on jet skis questioned the continued restrictions despite a study released months ago concluding jet skis don't harm the environment.

Todd Ishee bought jet skis because he says they're easier to launch than a boat and cheaper to maintain.

However, in some cases he says, it is the boat owners that have the advantage.

"Anybody in a boat can go out there and do whatever they want but people with personal watercraft can't go," said Ishee. "They're considered like a boat. You have to register them like a boat, why can't you do the same things that a boat can do."

By rallying together members of the American Watercraft Association hope to get back their right to ride along the coast of places like Ship and Horn islands, areas that are now off limits to personal watercrafts.

"Unfortunately, as long as people continue against one boat versus another boat then people have to organize. This is America. This is what we do. We come together. We step up and stake out our claim," said American Watercraft Association member Chris Manthos.

"Jet skis are not a threat to an environment," said jet ski owner Tracy Babin." I mean they really are safe and they're making them cleaner every day and it just seems like they pick on this one type of watercraft."

The people at the rally take safety and following the law seriously and believe they're paying the price for people who don't.

"They just act like they don't care and I know it's problematic," said David Jones. "If we could just try to respect one another out there. I don't think just outright banning them was the right thing to do."

These owners say the right, fair thing to do is to lift the ban and give the same access to all who use the water.

A second rally also took place this weekend in Florida.

Some sellers of jet skis say they've seen business drop by half in the last two years since the ban took effect.

We attempted to contact officials from the Gulf Islands National Seashore for comment but the main office is closed on weekends.

by Danielle Thomas

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