Boat tour biz could make splash near Windermere

By on August 7, 2014

The Butler Chain of Lakes Advisory Board recently heard a proposal from a man who wants to share the lakes’ natural beauty with small groups of visitors via guided, pontoon-boat tours.

Rodger Fielding shared this business idea with the five-member board at its July 14 meeting. The board assists and advises Orange County officials on matters relating to the Windermere Water and Navigation Control Taxing District.

Fielding could not be reached for comment. But the board’s county contact, Sergio Duarte — senior environmental specialist with the Environmental Protection Division — provided details of Fielding’s proposal.

“He proposed his idea and got some input from the board,” Duarte said. “It was just informational at this time.”

He said Fielding’s possible tour business would provide weekday eco-tours on the chain, avoiding the much busier weekends, Duarte said. Fielding would pre-book the tours online and his guests, pending county approval, could meet him at a local boat launch, such as R.D. Keene Park and Boat Ramp south of Windermere.

The chain consists of 11 lakes. A maximum group of 12 tourists would travel on the bodies of water to enjoy their natural attractions, such as the osprey, egrets and other birds at Egret Island, as well as the wildlife that lives at the Tibet-Butler Preserve, Duarte said.

Before starting the business, Fielding would need to register it and obtain proper licenses. Duarte said Fielding would not be selling beverages or other items while on the water.

“There is a lot of beauty in the Butler Chain, and (Fielding) wants more people to see it, especially tourists from abroad,” Duarte said.

Board members requested Fielding to bring maps, more detailed tour schedules and other information to a future meeting.

The board normally meets at 6 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at the Windermere Branch Library, 530 Main St., Windermere. Its next meeting is set for Aug. 18.

Windermere Town Manager Robert Smith pointed out that the county and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission control the use of the lakes.

“That’s a big misconception, that (town officials) have control over the lakes,” he said.

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