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September 22, 2019

8/24/2019 7:30:00 AM
Natural Reaction
Solutions start to surface at Manitowish Waters Town Board Workshop
Jacob Friede
Of the Lakeland Times

For the second time in just under a month a huge crowd filled the Manitowish Waters Town Hall last Tuesday night to talk about, what many perceive as rampant slow no wake violations on the Manitowish chain of lakes.

Around 100 people attended a town board workshop and over a dozen people spoke about the lack of water patrol, as well as boater etiquette, on the chain.

Similar to July's town board meeting, the workshop featured testimony after testimony describing boaters going too fast while too close to shore in slow no wake zones, resulting in dangerous waterways and eroded shorelines.

Many in attendance shared community member Karen Dixon's opinion that the problems on the chain were due to lack of education and enforcement.

A lot of boaters, especially those from out of town, don't understand the often changing and confusing boundaries of the slow no wake zones. Therefore, Dixon promoted wide scale distribution of the regulations concerning slow no wake zones as well as reminders of proper boater etiquette.

"We need to educate the public about the rules that we currently have and maybe some new rules that we might want to come up with," Dixon said. "And we need to get that information out everywhere. Through landlords. Through realtors. Through our businesses. Through the chamber. The library. Our launches. Everywhere."

But, in order to be effective, those regulations must be enforced and according to Dixon, anothers who spoke, they are currently not.

The town boat patrol has only issued two warnings and no tickets on the chain this year.

Complicating that issue, however, is the fact that the town's boat patrol currently consists of one officer who works on a part-time basis. Dixon said this is inadequate for a body of water the size of the Manitowish chain.

"Enforcement, of course, to me is the key issue," she said. "We need to hire more water patrol personnel and we need to buy more boats, more police boats for those people. Ten lakes is just too many for one person to do part time. So that is a main issue."

The town has been actively searching for more water patrol personnel, however not just anyone can patrol. They must be certified police officers and as of late they've been hard to come by.

It was suggested the town offer more competitive wages to strengthen the recruiting effort.

"You got to pay them,' said community member Patrick Solar, a retired police chief. "And I'm talking 30 bucks an hour. $30 an hour and you will get off duty officers to do that."

Town board chairman John Hanson was completely on board with the idea of offering more money to get more patrol officers if that's what the town wanted.

"If the taxpayers are willing to make the commitment, the town board would be willing to request the funding for increasing water patrol," Hanson said. "If that's the issue and we have to deal with that, then let's deal with it."

Even with the right amount of personnel, though, enforcement of wake zones is difficult. The definition of slow no wake is the slowest possible speed while maintaining steerage and that varies from boat to boat, and even at the slowest of speeds, for some craft, wake is sometimes inevitable.

"I'm either going nothing or I'm going a little bit that I'm giving a wake. I don't know a boat that's on the chain that won't make some type of wake and actually go," community member Carla Biwan Hameister said.

She also noted that the slow no wake boundaries have expanded each year, severely limiting the amount of space wake can legally be produced and therefore alienating those who want to use the lake for boating sports like wake surfing and tubing.

"The no wake buoys have been moving out every year," Biwan Hameister said. "They're moving out further and further and further and further and I strongly feel if we we're realistic and put those buoys back where they were all of us would feel more comfortable complying with the laws because they were realistic. Today I feel that I'm on a slow no wake chain. We need to be reasonable and both sides have to compromise a little bit. Make them reasonable. Slow no wake where it really matters and we will have a lot more compliance in my opinion."

Solar said miles per hour laws would also foster compliance with slow no wake regulations.

"You cannot regulate this no wake language effectively," Solar said. "You have to give your police officers tools. My suggestion is a fixed speed limit for your channels and your no wake areas. It will cause people to be more aware if you just put a speed limit sign right at the no wake areas just like you do on the streets. Give your police boat a radar gun. Give them reasonable guidelines for enforcement. That's your job as public officials. You set public policy. And write some tickets and your problem will be solved."

Community member Jerry Wilke preferred the idea of warnings first and using that as an opportunity to educate boaters about the rules.

"I don't think we need more regulations right now," Wilke said. "I don't think we need more laws. I think enforcing some of the laws that we currently have on the books, starting off with warnings, would be just a great idea. That comes along with the education part of it."

It was clear from the workshop the Manitowish chain is populated and used by people who have different views on what it means to enjoy a lake and there is a need for balance between those who prefer calm waters and those who love waves.

To help find that common ground and set policy accordingly, Hanson proposed the formation of an ad hoc committee of citizens who feel strongly about the issues on the chain.

"To try and put all of these suggestions together in some sort of reasonable format that we can adopt and make a policy of the town," Hanson said. "We've got a lot of talent here that's had their say and we really appreciate it. But we can't do it alone. We have to have help doing it, so if any of you feel strongly about this and would like to participate in this, we would be more than welcome to have you do that."

Based on the attendance of last week's workshop, there should be no shortage of candidates.

Jacob Friede may be reached at or

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