In Old Forge, a fight for access to the lake

The flute side of Old Forge Pond is seen here. In a recent meeting, Webb City Council voted to ban the mooring of boats / ships overnight at the popular Old Forge Lakefront boat dock, from June 15, 2021, to prevent people from parking their boats. long-term boats. Some residents would like to see other avenues before restricting access to water. Photo by Jamie Organski

The city prohibits the mooring of boats at night, in an attempt to crack down on abusers of the system. Some residents feel the measure is too extreme.

By Jamie Organski

Considering Old Forge’s reputation as a popular tourist area, especially during the summer months, it’s no surprise that an influx of visitors leads to the congestion of boats at the local lakeside on Old Forge. Pond.

This problem has been plaguing the region for several years, and the bottleneck is only partly due to the increase in the number of visitors, but also to the fact that some boat owners are taking advantage of a legal loophole. Long-standing municipal lakes and waterways law allowed boaters to moor their boats at city-owned docks for a period of two weeks before being fined $ 250.

Since it was more affordable to moor their boats at the lake all summer and pay the fine every two weeks than to use the services of local marinas, repeat offenders occupied spaces that could otherwise accommodate day trippers.

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Close the loop

To resolve the issue, the Webb Town Council held a public hearing on April 13 to hear public comments regarding an amendment to the town’s law that would ban the mooring of boats / ships at night on the shore. Old Forge Lake during the summer.

Many attendees expressed disgust with the way the hearing was going, adding that it seemed like the majority of city council had already made the decision to ban the mooring of boats overnight.

Instead of studying the feasibility of alternative solutions proposed by local residents and Webb City Councilor Kurt Gardner, at its May 11 meeting, Webb City Council voted 4-1 to ban the docking of boats during the night. The rule applies to city-owned docks on Old Forge Lake from June 15 to September 15 from midnight to 6 a.m., starting this year. The ban applies to all boats and ships, including motorboats, rowboats, pontoons, jet skis, canoes and kayaks. All boaters who violate this new law will be fined $ 250 per violation.

The move left many wondering why the board would not consider a gradual change such as imposing heavier fines or reducing the time allowed for people to moor their two-week boats. three or four days, and formulate a workable plan to remedy the abused mooring system at Old Forge Lake.

Webb town supervisor Dave Berkstresser mentions the town of Inlet, which has also banned the mooring of boats at night, saying the measure has provided adequate space during the day.

Berkstresser said it was time for the board to send a message to those who have abused the system for so long, and that message was, “We have had enough. “

Community rejection

Since the vote, many residents and visitors have called the decision hasty and reckless, as it punishes everyone for the bad behavior of a few. Many local residents and business owners have expressed concern that the transition from allowing boats to moor for a two-week period and an overnight ban is too extreme and leaves visiting guests the region with their boat for a dry weekend.

Old Forge resident Ed Tondryk pointed out that since Old Forge is a popular tourist destination, the council has a responsibility to welcome visitors.

“Whether we like it or not, we are a tourist town, a destination and a playground,” he said. “To cut this and not give people another [option] [seems unfair.] And don’t say Inlet, because it’s already overused and overloaded.

Councilor Gardner voted against the motion, and Webb Berkstresser Supervisor, Councilor Don Haehl, Councilor Barbara Green and Councilor Mike Ross voted in favor of the ban.

In previous board meetings, Gardner recommended that the board consider adopting a parking meter approach in which boaters could reserve spots for the night through a reservation system controlled through a cellular app.

“There are serious abuses [of the system at the lakefront] pass, but I have a hard time with such an extreme [decision] and offering no overnight parking, ”he said. “There are a lot of people who use it correctly and it is a necessity for them. I have a feeling there is a balance we could find.

Local resident Mary Brophy-Moore said a pass / kiosk system would not only help ease congestion at the lakeside, but also prove to be a center of profit for the city. She said the city council may be to blame for failing to properly regulate the system in recent years.

Denise Reynolds pioneered the idea of ​​banning overnight boat mooring one day a week (suggesting every Sunday during the summer). The move would force squatters to take their boats out of the water, make sure places were available at the start of the week and prove easier to enforce for local police. Reynolds urged the board to consider striking a balance between the previous law and a complete ban on overnight docking.

“Maybe the decision should be postponed until a real plan can be considered. Please consider all of us who love and respect Old Forge for all it is, and this Pier is part of it, ”she said.

As another long-term solution, Green announced the board’s intention to work on a plan to accommodate boat / ship overnight spaces on town properties on the Pied Piper side of Old Forge Pond. The plan would likely include building docks along this area, and while she thought there wasn’t enough time for such a project this year, she hoped the plan would take hold over the next couple of years. .

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