Burton Outdoor Adventures, a new kayak and paddleboard outfitter in Flowery Branch, relies on the ability to pick up and drop off its customers at Old Federal Day Use Beach and Boat Ramp on Lake Lanier.
Jason Burton, owner of Burton Outdoor Adventures, said all of that changed on May 22 when his staff members were blocked from entry. Burton said the gate workers were told by a ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not to let the business’ van into the boat launch area when the parking lot is full. For unloading customers, he said his staff uses a pull-off spot, not a parking space.
Before shuttling people to the beach, patrons leave their cars at Burton Outdoor Adventures’ property. Up until late May, Burton said this hasn’t been an issue for his business since it opened in April.
“Multiple times the parking spaces were full, and the gate people would let us in,” he said. “Five to 10 minutes is the longest time we unload. We’re in and out fast.”
The Times reached out to the Corps on June 4. The Corps received the inquiry and has declined to comment regarding Burton’s complaint.
Before opening his business, Burton received a letter of permission from the Corps to “engage in transient commercial activities” at Lake Lanier. The only line on the document involving parking states that Burton and his staff “may not occupy more than 50% of the available parking in the park.” It doesn’t include restrictions regarding unloading when the lot is full. Burton said he has not violated any of the conditions in the document.
The letter of permission expires Nov. 1 and was signed by Chief Ranger Ernest Noe.
Burton has already been in contact with the Corps to try to settle the issue. However, he said no progress has been made. He said his attorneys were told by the Corps that picking up and unloading customers in a full lot posed safety concerns for emergency vehicles getting in and out.
Burton, who is a high school teacher and veteran, said he drove ambulances and provided emergency assistance when he served in the U.S. Navy.
“You don’t blink your eyes and all of a sudden a fire truck or ambulance appears,” he said. “Any business has emergency protocols. If I happened to be there, we’d get out of the way. This whole thing they’re trying to say about emergency vehicles is an excuse.”
Burton said he poured his retirement savings into his business, purchasing 1.4 acres of property and multiple kayaks, paddleboards, vans, trailers and jet skis.
“The lack of empathy from the Corps is shocking,” he said. “I’m a veteran and a teacher, and I’m just trying to run a small business. There’s zero compassion for an unwritten rule that you can’t plan for.”