By Ann Needle
At the Aug. 2 meeting of the Lake Boon Commission, some Lake residents spoke of their first-hand experiences with why state and local rules in and around the water should be straightened out. These accounts helped illustrate the need for a proposed start-up plan to look more closely at how to update LBC bylaws to better synch state and local rules around swimming and boating.
In an example of these issues, LBC Chair Conway Wharff of Hudson explained that, in a July 4 incident, Stow first responders had a tough time locating a dock fire from the water that day, given a number of docks around it did not have house numbers.
Stow Police Detective Sgt. Mike Sallese likened the situation to patrol cars searching for a street address, when “three or five people don’t have their houses marked, then we don’t know where they are going. Same thing with the Lake.” He also cautioned that calling the police on a cell phone will give them the physical location, but not the actual address.
Looking at state laws on dock markings, Hawkes said that the law calls for the numbers to be at least 3-inches high and in a contrasting color to its dock. However, he conceded that other portions of the laws and rules around dock signage were rather murky. But, even before these guidelines are reviewed, several residents volunteered to encourage neighbors to mark their docks.
Committee Forming on Bylaws
Resident Kris Krabin outlined her proposal to the LBC on forming a subcommittee focused mostly on bylaws that may be out of synch with state laws. She noted that confusion, along with lack of enforcement, have threatened swimmers’ and users’ safety and put boat owners at higher risk of litigation. The two purposes of the volunteer subcommittee would be to complete whatever Lake projects it finds need doing before the winter, and to lay out a longer term plan for what work could be done for next year’s boating season, all “keeping the Lake safe and active,” Krablin said.
Ideally, volunteers would come from residents and boaters around the Lake community, though someone off-Lake might be best as the chair and an unbiased voice, Krablin noted. She agreed with Wharfff that the LBC would approve the members.
LBC were positive about the plan, though Wharff cautioned that any changes the subcommittee would propose that need both Stow and Hudson approval at town meetings “may not take 30 or 60 or 90 days, it may take two years.” Wharff asked Krablin to finalize her proposal for the LBC’s Aug. 15 meeting.
While Krablin alluded that some residents want better enforcement of laws and rules by the environmental patrol, Wharfff maintained that the police have been doing what they were asked in “education and informing” when coming across infractions.
Sgt. Sallese reported that Stow Police Officer Lee Heron, who devotes much of his time patrolling the Lake, did 30 hours of patrols the previous week, stopping15 boats and issuing only citations rather than warnings. Sallese also mentioned that LBC members have the authority to take its boat out and do its own patrols.
Still, Wharff stressed that the patrol should show zero tolerance on safety issues. Don Hawkes commented that he sees many rule-breaking boaters when he takes his own boat out near the end of the day, “and I’ve seen a lot of people pushing the envelope.” As for the LBC boat, Wharff said it needs repairs before It can be used as a patrol vessel.
Wharff also mentioned that a new patrol boat trailer that Stow Town Meeting voted to pay for up to $1,500 was purchased at $1,950. Hawkes expressed his surprise, asserting that Stow TM agreed to vote the cost of a used trailer. However, Wharff pointed out that Hudson is funding the extra money.
Finally, after some discussion of who should take over from Wharff as LBC chair for the coming year, Wharff was unanimously voted back in by Hawkes and Theresa O’Riorden, the third LBC member. Though Wharff said he has been chair for about 15 years, he agreed with Hawkes and O’Riorden that he could continue in the role, given the load of issues the LBC is tackling.