The ODNR Divisions of Watercraft, Parks and Wildlife hosted a public forum regarding the no wake rule on Acton Lake. The discussion was held at Hueston Woods State Park The purpose was to gather informal public feedback regarding the no wake pilot program, which is due to sunset in the fall of 2015.
Acton Lake, like nearby Cowan Lake, has a 10 horsepower restriction. The no wake rule allows boats with great than 10 horsepower to be operated at idle speed only. The forum topics included comments regarding safety, recreational opportunities or environmental factors affecting the pilot program.
ODNR Division of Watercraft Chief Miller commented on the Acton Lake pilot program, “It has gone really well. We’ve not had any problems. We have had no more complaints on the lake than in previous years. There has been good public support for keeping the rule. There have been more people at the meetings in support of the rule than there have been concerns. As far as people not following the rule, we have not had issues.”
Comments from fisherman Mark Blauvelt, of New Lebanon Ohio, echoed the same sentiments. Blauvelt said, “The ramp at Acton Lake is at one end of the lake so the larger boats using only a trolling motor were very hard on the batteries. That was a major issue for fishermen. It is a whole lot better now. Prior to the rule change we saw pleasure boaters on the lake who obviously were not aware of the 10 horsepower limit. The rule has been publicized and it is working better. I don’t believe the officers on the lake have had any issues. I hope they permanently adopt the no wake rule. It is working well.”
Statistics provided by the ODNR Division of Watercraft confirmed Blauvelt’s view of the rule. The repots for Acton Lake reflect the positive comments. There were no citations in the past year. The paddle community has reported no problems. The no wake concerns have been focused in the area of the marina with various craft not being slowed prior to entering the marked zone. The location and number of buoys will correct the issue. The only accident on the lake involved a boater hitting a log and damaging an outboard. So the numbers support the views of a successful pilot program.
Comments by the marina personnel and the individuals attending the meeting reflected the same results. One lady requested additional patrols on the weekend due to the popularity of the lake. She also expressed a concern with crowding at the boat ramps and the inconsiderate actions of some “ramp hogs” at the launch ramp. Another suggestion was that a speed limit should be adopted like Clearfork Lake, which has an 8mph speed limit.
Clearfork is often cited as an example rather than the no wake/idle speed rule. However Clearfork is owned by the City of Mansfield, which established the speed limit. ODNR works with the city to incorporate their speed limit into the boating regulations and provide appropriate enforcement. A speed limit presents problems for many smaller boats which do not have a speedometer.
There have been successes at other lakes including Burr Oak, Knox and recently the rule at Jackson Lake was made permanent. I asked Chief Miller to look into the future about expansion of this rule to other lakes such as Cowan Lake. He responded, “It is a national trend. Watercraft doesn’t own the lakes. We are handling this for State Parks as the public comes forward with a request to look into a specific lake. This is a local grassroots driven effort. The next lake to be discussed may be Barkcamp, which is a small lake in eastern Ohio.
There have been some discussions regarding Lake Logan. These are in the initial meeting phase. It will be the spring of 2016 before any direction will be determined. “
A grassroots effort is under way to bring the no wake rule discussion back to Cowan Lake. There is no reason that the rule can’t be as successful there as it has been at Acton and other lakes. Anyone interested in signing the petition requesting the ODNR Division of Watercraft to revisit the no wake rule at Cowan Lake please see www.ipetitions.com/petition/cowanlake.
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