New London ordinance remains unchanged
By John Faucher
The city of New London Parks and Recreation Committee voted unanimously to keep New London’s slow no wake ordinance ‘as is’ after a 35-minute listening session held on Oct. 6 with property owners and interested citizens.
The meeting was held at the Washington/Senior center to accommodate a larger than usual audience. Approximately 25 citizens attended the session, with 17 of them addressing the committee.
The discussion began earlier this summer, when several citizens requested the city to create an ordinance to enact slow no wake on the waters of the Wolf River from the Pearl Street Bridge upstream to the curve past New London Utilities.
Most in favor of the no wake, including several residents further upstream on Woodlane Drive, cited safety concerns and property damage as their primary reasons.
Those against the slow no wake feared potential economic effects to area businesses and cited a lack of reported accidents.
Park Director Chad Hoerth explained to committee members the state laws regarding slow no wake.
“State law provides municipalities the authority to create slow no wake for basically two reasons. One, for public health and safety, and two, for preservation of state natural resources,” said Hoerth.
“State natural resources refer to state owned lands with specific guidelines for consideration of natural resources,” said Hoerth. “Privately owned land does not fall within the category so for the area in consideration, the committee could only consider an ordinance change based on health and safety reasons.”
Audio from the meeting can be heard here: 151006_001
Both sides speak
Robin Eich, a resident on Woodlane Drive spoke first.
She passed out photos of tree roots exposed on her shoreline.
“We need something done, I’m losing my land. It’s not fair,” she said. “The city of New London is taking care of their main thoroughfare by putting all kinds of riprap down there; we’d like the same thing. “We’re losing our land, those pictures will show you my root system and how it’s sitting out of the water when the water is low during the year, and these big fast boats go by, and they’re not being good to each other. This is a year-long problem,” said Eich.
Clyde Raney, a resident on Wolf River Avenue spoke next. Raney cited part of the no wake ordinance.
“Section two reads—the intention of this ordinance is to provide safe and healthful conditions, enjoyment and quiet recreation consistent with public rights and interest and capabilities of water resources,” said Raney. “That pretty much says it all right there.”
Raney said he has witnessed boats acting ‘in an unsafe’ manner on the river behind his house. He related it to drag racing on a public street, or speeding in a school zone.
“It’s just not safe, you gotta do something for us,” said Raney.
Steve Thompson, Manager of New London Utilities attended the meeting to provide his personal opinion. He has worked across the river at the location in question for almost 30 years.
He said that he has seen the river in many seasons from floods, with boats in the back yard, to low water. He said that much of the area in question is riprapped for erosion and some areas such as the point are sand and have not moved for years.
“I’ve seen boats go through at all different rates of speeds, but over the years my experience is the fact when they go through at a faster rate of speed, it is a smaller wake,” said Thompson.
He told the committee that he felt creating a year round no wake would be an unnecessary move by city council.
“People should have the right to enjoy the river,” said Thompson. “I’ve never seen an accident on the river at this location.”
Don Sommer former business owner and riverfront property owner in downtown New London addressed the committee and audience.
“I’m afraid if you put a no wake on this body of water you are going to discourage a lot of people from coming to New London,” said Sommers.
He said that would negatively affect restaurants, hotels and other businesses.
Sommer explained that if someone had four hours to fish and wanted to fish upriver above the bypass bridge, the no wake would take two hours of their fishing time away just to go from the boat landing to the bypass.
“I just don’t think a no wake is necessary,” he said.
Sommer said he has been around a long time, and he has seen people buy property, or rent property on the water and somewhere along the line in their contract or lease, they thought they bought the river along with it.
“They don’t want anybody else using the river. They want it all for themselves,” said Sommer. “It’s just a matter of being greedy.”
A few members of the audience gasped, a couple laughed and one person said the word, “Safety.”
Numerous others approached the microphone and spoke on behalf of creating a year-round slow no wake and several more spoke against the idea for the duration of the 35-minute listening session.
Alderman Bob Besaw made a motion to retain the current ordinance, enacting slow no wake only when the river reaches seven feet. Alderman Denis Herter seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.