Lake Residents Speak Out About Wakeboarding
The state Boat Regulatory Commission (BRC) held a rare inland meeting at the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club on Wednesday, July 11.
Members were confronted by a full house in the banquet room of the club. Many residents who attended were drawn by a persistent rumor that wakeboarding north of Brady Bridge would be banned by the commission. BRC chair Ed Harrison said, “We have no plans to eliminate any activity on the lake. I’m not sure where the rumor started.”
Lake Hopatcong Foundation board president Martin Kane explained that the foundation had convened a meeting of the Knee Deep Club, Lake Hopatcong Commission (LHC), marina owners, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and other lake stakeholders to look at existing regulations. “By and large they found them okay,” said Kane, adding that an increase in the types of water sports might mean the regulations should refer to the number of “tow lines” a boat can tow, rather than the number of “water skiers.”
Resident John Kurzman said the minutes of a LHC meeting stated that the foundation had announced wake rules would be discussed. “I kept hearing about lake-specific rules,” Kurzman stated. He had asked for a list of rules and received an emailed set of recommendations, including wake restrictions in Woodport north of Brady Bridge and in Henderson Cove north of the ferry channel. He also claimed that “not everyone who would have wanted to participate was invited” to the stakeholders’ meeting.
Kane disputed these contentions. Dan McCarthy, vice chair of the LHC, reiterated that the stakeholders met to determine if any rules need changing. He also said the LHC is often confronted with people who have heard rumors, the latest being about banning wakeboarding.
In 2017, the LHC fielded a room full of angry residents who said they had heard that the state police were going to ban boats anchoring in Byram Cove. “We decided to try to fix things in the cove without government regulation,” McCarthy stated. The situation in the cove was ameliorated by talking to the people who partied in their boats and the cove residents who complained about the noise.
BRC member Bruce Strigh said the commission has no proposed changes to the regulations on its agenda.
A few residents said they did have problems with the wake from wakeboarding boats. George Damerel reported that his boat was damaged by such a wake, and observed that the rules of the lake had been developed around waterskiing. “We need to address the new technology,” he said, advocating restricting the big wakeboard boats in areas where there has been damage.
Resident Bob Behrents stated that the problem on the lake is insufficient enforcement of the regulations that are already in place. He did not expect the lake to get any additional marine police, but asked if local police can enforce maritime regulations.
Chris Jones, state police liaison to the commission, said he will address the issue with his captain. “It makes me angry that you are not getting the service you need,” he said, and stated that the county sheriff’s department can patrol the lake. “I don’t think there is a reason locals can’t,” he added.
Eric Wilsusen, retired deputy chief of the Jefferson Township Police Department, said he is aware of the partnership with the Morris County sheriff’s department. “We had a discussion about local partnerships, but we aren’t trained and don’t own boats.” He noted that local departments are not likely to buy boats.
Strigh responded that “it’s a matter of priorities; talk to your local officials. A fire boat was a priority of Jefferson Township.” Donna Macalle-Holly of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation pointed out that local police patrol Greenwood Lake.
Several people said that education is key. Sarah Schindelar observed that “everybody in this room has to take an eight-hour boat safety course. I don’t understand how someone can watch a 15-minute video and rent a boat.”
Several residents thanked the BRC for meeting at the lake and asked them to come again. After the meeting, Kane and Macalle-Holly took the members of the commission out on the lake in Study Hull, the foundation’s floating classroom.