Just over a month into operating Jungle Float on Fort Loudoun Lake, owner Scott Payne has been forced to suspend public use of the facility.
Payne, who also owns and operates Nautical Boat Club out of Concord Marina opened Jungle Float over Memorial Day weekend, tethering it just west of the marina near an area known as Rocky Point in Concord.
However, at its regular meeting June 29, Knox County Commission voted 9-2 against ratifying a Memorandum of Understanding agreement with Payne, effectively forcing him to cease public operations.
An update was posted on the Jungle Float Knox Facebook Page later that night, making note of the decision and asking for the community’s help.
“Since we are operating in TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) waters and not on county land, we believe the county’s position is incorrect,” stated the post, which went on to ask Jungle Float supporters to contact Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knox County Commissioners to hopefully sway the decision.
The post had received 126 primarily positive comments as of July 6, with many vowing to do what they could to bring Jungle Float back to Fort Loudoun Lake.
Tim Chandler, whose son, Nathan, was one of four Farragut High School students who underwent lifeguard training to work at Jungle Float, said he was just one of many people who were “disappointed about this being shut down,” which included his son, who no longer has a job.
“It was the perfect summer job for him,” he said. “And, people were going, and enjoying it.
“They didn’t give (Payne) any notice,” Chandler added. “I know we are all trying to see what we can do to get it re-opened.”
Doug Bataille, Knox County director of Parks and Recreation, confirmed Payne had been working with the county to procure the MOU to operate Jungle Float.
“He approached us a few months back and we sent (the MOU) to the law department, and they were waiting to hear back from TVA,” Bataille said. “(But then Payne) went ahead and started the business” before the agreement was approved.
In the meantime, Bataille said the county received complaints regarding where patrons were parking in the Rocky Point area, as well as safety concerns about “kids swimming from the shore to the float.”
“So we circled back, and put together the (agreement), but the County Commission did not approve it,” he added.
John Schoonmaker, 5th District Commissioner representing the Concord area and Farragut, voted with the majority. He chose not to comment further on the matter.
Bataille said Payne has a couple of options that would allow him to reopen, both of which involved him working under existing MOUs with Concord Marina and River Sports Outfitters at The Cove.
A call to Concord Marina was not returned, nor were calls and messages to Payne, as of press deadline.
Jungle Float is still in use for private party rental, according to its Facebook page.