ODNR considers proposal for bigger boats

Bigger boats could be riding the waves of Dow Lake at Strouds Run State Park soon.

A proposal has been filed with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources requesting for boats with unlimited horsepower to join kayaks and paddleboards on the water. The law now requires boats to operate under 10 horsepower on Dow Lake.

The proposal comes from a national movement for access to public lakes, Mike Miller, the boating law administrator at ODNR Parks and Watercraft, said.

“(The purpose is) to provide accessibility to other users to use the lake that wouldn’t otherwise be able to,” he said.

The ODNR Parks and Watercraft used that pilot program to open up access to 26 lakes in the past decade, Miller said. The petition sent to ODNR had 270 signatures.

Some Athens residents, including Heather Cantino, are worried about how larger boats will affect recreational activities on the lake, which is “fairly quiet” right now.

“To increase the boat use on a lake that small just doesn’t make sense,” she said. “It’s a pretty unspoiled area. … A lot of the lake is surrounded by quiet woods and people go there to listen to birds and walk in the peace and quiet, which will be affected by the number and sizes of the boats.”

The proposal includes a no wake policy, meaning boats with bigger engines must still operate at idle speeds to avoid disturbing others on the lake. Miller said those concerns are unwarranted, as they have not experienced complaints from the lakes where similar proposals have been enacted.

“If the proposal is approved, it is two-year pilot program, so it sunsets unless we have a new formal hearing to make it permanent,” Miller said. “Every lake does have its own character and users and (we) recognize that.”

Cantino said she is also concerned with the possibility of invasive species being introduced to the lake through big boats.

“The larger the boat, the more likely it would have been in bodies of water where they are invasive species that get carried,” she said. “There’s a really invasive mussel species in some Ohio waters. Those can travel on boats and get caught in motors and be introduced in lakes where they’re not present.”

The lake is relatively small at 161 acres. Seth Brooks, whose family lives near Strouds Run State Park, said there are bigger lakes boats with larger horsepower can use.

“If it were a larger lake, it would make sense,” Brooks, a senior studying global studies-Latin America and Spanish, said. “In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to have bigger engines out there because of the size of the lake and the nature of the people who utilize the lake.”

ODNR officially accepted comments from the public through Feb. 17, but Miller said that was not a hard deadline because it is not a formal public hearing and citizens can still submit comments a few days after.

“The purpose of the comments is to give people a chance to say what they think,” he said. “We’ll look at what we get. It’s not about sheer numbers. We look at what boaters’ concerns are. … Our primary concerns with boating issues are boaters.”

If ODNR decides to move forward, they will hold a public hearing in Athens.

@AbbeyMarshall

am877915@ohio.edu

Originally published for The Post on Feb. 19, 2017.

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