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Petition opposes big wakes

Dayton residents voted to support advisory motions to help enact an ordinance that prohibits wake-enhancing devices on boats in local lakes. James Card Photo

Farmington, Dayton form committee

By James Card

At the town of Dayton’s annual meeting of electors on April 16, Casey Plunkett, president of the Spencer Lake Association, handed each of the town supervisors a three-ring binder titled, “Petition for an Ordinance to Prohibit Enhanced Wake Devices.”

The petition was initiated by Dayton residents.

Inside were a cover letter and a fact sheet breaking down the numbers: 667 agree that an ordinance prohibiting wake boating on Columbia, Long, Stratton and Spencer Lakes in the town of Dayton should be in place and 26 disagreed with the prohibition.

After that were the individual names of the 667 and 26 people. Also included were comments from the petitioners.

The page-after-page comments covered shoreline erosion and the destruction of private property, churning marl from the lake bottom, murky water, dangers to paddlers, swimmers and sailors; damage to aquatic vegetation, the decline of angling and the possibly that tourism to the Chain O’ Lakes will suffer.

There were anecdotes about getting swamped and close-call accidents. One commenter said they sold their wake boat recently as they could see the damage it was doing firsthand. A common refrain was the lakes were too small for this kind of activity.

Fred Swiggum, who captains the 30-foot pontoon boat that takes out vets from the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King, noted: “We have encountered waves from enhanced wakes that strongly rock the heavy boat loaded with vets in wheelchairs causing water over the bow. In one incident, were were going into Round Lake where an enhanced wake boat was being used to surf and luckily, the driver was able to maneuver around although rocking heavily.

“We were concerned about tipping wheelchairs. He made the comment that when a wake surfing boat was out, no one else could use the lake,” he said.

For those in opposition to the ordinance, most comments were deflective to the damage created by enhanced wakes or were appeals for negotiation.

These included changing water ski hours, blaming other recreational users for congestion, boaters should be educated on how to deal with big wakes, agreeing on a 200-foot shoreline setback, that waterfront owners should spend money on riprap so they can enjoy their hobby and that this ordinance is a slippery slope to ban everything on local lakes.

After the comment sections were drafts for the boards of Dayton and Farmington to use in enacting an ordinance prohibiting wake boating, additional fact sheets about enhanced wakes and testimonials on the effects of big wakes on small lakes.

Supervisor Brett Grams said the petition was a surprise to him since he did not get an email about the petition despite being a lakefront landowner and a Dayton resident.

Plunkett walked the board through the petition’s data collection methodology and others in the audience discussed receiving the petition/survey by email or it getting caught in a spam filter.

Dan Johnson said any municipality that is currently looking to allow wake-enhanced boating are considering lakes of 400 acres or more. Of the local lakes, Round Lake, the largest, is less than 150 acres.

“When people ask me where this topic stands in the Waupaca area, I mention the size of the lakes. You know what their response was? And there is enhanced wakes on those lakes? You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s crazy. Those lakes are too small,” Johnson said.

Tired arms

Through the meeting, residents voted by raising their hands and holding them for a head count in support of numerous advisory motions made by the citizens with the hope of spurring the board into action. These were non-binding advisory motions.

Plunkett informed the board that he was making a motion that the chairman to submit the draft ordinance and condition report in the binder to the Wisconsin DNR within the next five days. It was seconded.

Only Dayton residents could vote. The hands went up. The first vote there was 32 yes in support, one no and three people abstaining.

Next, John Miller, former Dayton town board member, made a motion to schedule a public hearing about wake enhancement boating within 31 to 36 days of receipt of the written request of the DNR advisory review of the draft ordinance. The motion was seconded and more hands went up in support with numbers similar to the first vote.

Dan Johnson made a motion to schedule a town board vote regarding wake enhancement ordinance following 31 to 36 days of the public hearing. It was seconded and more hands went to the air in support.

Another motion was made to authorize the town board to enter a memorandum of understanding with the Waupaca County Sheriff to enforce all town ordinances related to lakes, rivers and landings. Farmington has a MOU. with the sheriff, Dayton does not. It was seconded and hands went up again in support.

April 18 joint meeting

On Thursday, April 18, at the packed-again Dayton Town Hall, the board members of Dayton and Farmington gathered to put their head stogether on the wake boat issue as they share common waters.

Dayton Chairman Jeff Barlow recapped his interactions on this divisive topic over the past year and concluded, “For those of you that have been running around saying, ‘Dayton doesn’t do anything,’ shut up.”

This meeting was closed to public comments and the dual boards decided to form a fact-finding committee to get more input from the DNR and the Waupaca County sheriff. Phil Durrant admitted that the town of Farmington approached the subject the wrong way and a joint-township effort should have been formed early on. There was discussion about inviting the Lind Town Board into the process for them to get a perspective on the subject.

Farmington Town Chair Caroline Murphy opposed the forming of the committee, the only person voting against it. She said they would merely be rehashing the previous work and she claimed it was a stalling tactic.

The committee will be composed of Brett Grams representing Dayton, Craig Nelson representing Farmington, Dan Lewinski of the sheriff’s water patrol, Joe Mulrooney of the DNR, Dayton Town Clerk Judy Suhs, Mark Kuntsman for an angler’s perspective, Kevin Baker as a lakeshore property owner and Thad Marcom as a wake boat owner.

The committee’s goal is to hold a meeting to gather further input and report back to the respective boards with their findings no later than May 17 if not sooner.

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