Site Visit: Central Florida Small Business Owner Chomps Down on Excessive EPA Rules
By Nick Ivory, Regional Legislative and Regulatory Manager
Black Hammock Adventures, a Central Florida attraction located just outside of Orlando, FL on the waterfront of Lake Jesup, is a neat little operation that provides airboat rides, an award winning restaurant, a gift shop, the Lazy Gator Bar, a display of live gators, and more. One of the largest lakes in Central Florida, Lake Jesup is believed to contain over 9,000 alligators, which makes it one of the state’s densest populations of the creatures in a single lake. There is an interesting story behind how that came about, which oddly enough involves the creation of a certain Magic Kingdom.
During the 1960’s, Walt Disney acquired 30,500 acres of land to develop into what we know of today as Disney World, and much of this land was made up of swamplands and wetlands that were infested with gators, which at the time were considered an endangered species and could not be euthanized. Therefore, Mr. Disney hired trappers to remove them from the land and release them into Lake Jesup, roughly 45 miles northeast of Disney World. Joel Martin, the owner and President of Black Hammock Adventures, was kind enough to invite Advocacy to his establishment to tour the premises, hold and pet some gators, learn about his business, and discuss the obstacles that he has faced over the years.
Hiring has been a particular sticking point that has caused particular trouble for Joel, particularly over the last several months due to Hurricane Irma. There was major flooding on the premises as a result of the storm, which caused him to have to cease operations of Black Hammock Adventures for weeks until the water receded. Much of his staff left during this time because they couldn’t afford to be out of work until the business was up and running again, so Joel had to find new people to fill the positions. He mentioned that employee turnover becomes even more problematic when he has to replace his airboat captains, as it has taken as long as six months to find a company that will offer worker’s compensation insurance for them.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules have been the biggest hurdle for Joel from a federal regulatory standpoint. Because Black Hammock Adventures is located in a particularly conservation-focused area, there’s always struggle to be allowed to do certain types of construction or renovations there. He described one case in which he tried to repair the parking lot with leftover asphalt that he had in his possession. Once the EPA caught wind of it, they came in and put a stop to it, at least temporarily. After spending $50,000 on a lawyer to handle the mitigation on his behalf, he eventually navigated through the red tape and was able to get the work finished. Advocacy encourages efforts that protect and preserve the country’s environmentally sensitive areas while also allowing for small businesses like Black Hammock Adventures to do what they do best without overly burdensome regulations, and works with the EPA on a regular basis in order to strike that important balance.
Advocacy was in Florida for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables June 5-7th.
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Nick Ivory is the Regional Legislative and Regulatory Manager. Ivory can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.