NewsPinellas County


Pinellas leaders hold off on banning boats from Outback Key near Fort De Soto

Vote pushed back two weeks
Posted at 4:55 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 17:26:22-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County leaders are holding off on a decision to separate boats and swimmers in one area of Fort De Soto Park.

County leaders decided to back down from their vote last week to ban boating in the lagoon between Outback Key and North Beach. They said they wanted more time to weigh more options like putting in a no-wake zone instead.

Boaters tell ABC Action News they’re relieved.

County leaders showed a video to commissioners on May 19 to explain how close boats are getting to swimmers in the lagoon right off of Fort De Soto’s North Beach. The area is called Outback Key, a sandbar that formed a few years ago.

Commissioners say the area has become a place for big boat parties, which may be putting swimmers in danger.

They voted last week to ban all boats, jet skis, kayaks, canoes and paddleboards in the lagoon.

Since then, 8,000 outraged boaters signed a petition to keep the lagoon open. They also emailed and called commissioners, prompting county leaders to rescind their original vote and get more insight before sending their recommendations to the state.

Brad Lowman, who boats near Outback Key, says he is glad to hear it.

“I think it’s going to create more issues if they displace those people. Now you’re going to have people riding all over the place trying to find a new place to set up and party, and I think it’s going to be a bad deal for fishermen and a lot of traffic out there,” he explained.

Commissioners plan to get more insight from boat associations, FWC and other groups before making a final decision.

Pinellas county leaders plan to vote on the issue again in two weeks.