Efforts to expand water skiing hours on the Chain O’ Lakes have run into a roadblock.
At a joint meeting of the town boards of Dayton and Farmington Monday, Feb. 17, discussion of a proposal to change the ski hours was removed from the agenda.
“The hours will stay the same,” according to Farmington Town Chairman Dale Trinrud.
At its Jan. 25 meeting, the Waupaca Chain O’ Lakes Association board voted 8-6 to recommend the towns of Dayton amend their ordinances to expand the hours for water skiing.
That issue was discussed briefly at a Jan. 28 Dayton Town Board meeting when Town Chairman Chris Klein explained the process for amending the ordinances. He said any amendment would require a joint public hearing. Both towns would need to pass the amendment.
Currently, the ski hours on the Chain are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekends and holidays.
The association proposed expanded ski hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends and holidays.
Water skiing is permitted on Long Lake, Columbia Lake, Round Lake and Rainbow Lake.
District board meeting
On Saturday, Feb. 15, the Waupaca Chain O’ Lakes District board met to discuss the association’s recommendation. The meeting drew a large crowd, most of whom were vocal in their opposition to the proposed changes.
Bob Ellis, who chairs the district board, opened the meeting by explaining the difference between the district and the association.
He said the association is a voluntary group of approximately 650 property owners who pay fees to be members. The purpose of the association is to be an advocate of the property owners’ interests and protect the quality of the lakes.
The district is a government entity with taxing authority under state law.
“Almost all the same faces are on the boards, but our responsibilities are different,” Ellis said.
Scott Panzenhagen, representing the association board, read a statement from Bob Underberg, the association’s president.
“We, the Chain O’ Lakes Association would like to ask the townships of Dayton and Farmington to return our recommendation so we may provide supporting data and base our recommendation on direct communication and reasonable engagement of our full membership,” Panzenhagen said.
Panzenhagen asked members of the association, both those opposed to expanding the hours and those in favor, to “put together their facts and figures and bring them to the annual meeting this summer.”
The association’s annual meeting will be held on June 21.
“We will draft a survey of our members that has input from both sides,” Panzenhagen said.
He noted the association board voted for the expanded ski hours due to safety concerns on the Chain O’ Lakes. They believe the additional hours will result in less congestion.
“I have been talking about this for 20 years,” Panzenhagen said. “My concerns have been brushed aside and swept under the rug.”
Ellis asked Panzenhagen if he had done any research on the issue.
Panzenhagen said he had been in contact with the Wisconsin Ski Federation and the Department of Natural Resources.
Chris Klein said the town boards will decide on amending their waterway ordinances based on recommendations from the district and the association.
Klein noted it was the responsibility of those two organizations to do the research on how the proposed changes would affect safety and the environment.
He said the town boards make the amendments, but the DNR must approve them before they go into effect. If the DNR does not approve the amendments, it can appeal them.
Klein said the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office will not enforce the revised ordinance unless it is approved by the DNR.
Kay Ellis, a member of the association board who voted against the expanded hours, read from the organization’s by-laws. The association’s purpose is “to preserve and to protect the Chain O’ Lakes” and to represent the interests of the members as a whole.
Ellis shared the results of a 2009-10 survey of association members. The survey drew responses from 319 association members.
Of those responding, 64 percent indicated they wanted the ski hours to remain the same, while 11 percent said they wanted the hours to be more restrictive.
Only 25 percent of the respondents favored an increase in the ski hours.
Ellis noted the total hours allowed for skiing, tubing and wake boarding would increase by 16 hours per week, thereby reducing the number of daylight hours available for quiet water sports such as kayaking, canoeing and swimming.
Many of those complaining about the proposed changes criticized the association board’s methods. They argued that the decision was made in the winter when summer residents are away and with little input from the association’s membership.
“Thirty-six years ago, we had to decide whether we were going to have sewers around the lake,” Steve Shambeau said. “Had we gone about it the same way this was done, we would have been hung.”
Shambeau said those supporting a sewer district on the Chain went out and spoke to all the local residents to garner their support.
The district board made no recommendation to the towns regarding the association’s proposal.
After Monday’s meeting of the joint town boards, Trinrud told the County Post that both the association board and the town boards could have handled the proposal better.
Trinrud said the association board should have obtained more public input and the town boards should have held a joint meeting immediately after the association made its recommendation.