Limit on watercraft horsepower raises concern

LISBON — The state is considering lifting the watercraft horsepower limit at Guilford Lake State Park, and some residents and seasonal home owners are unhappy.

Robert Gause, president of the 120-member Guilford Lake Civic Association, said they have begun circulating petitions in opposition to an Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s proposal to allow watercraft powered by more than 10 horsepower on the lake, provided the watercraft is operated at idle speed. They have also contacted state Rep. Tim Ginter, R-Salem, to express their concern.

ODNR held a town hall meeting at the park pavilion on Aug. 28. Although Gause said others only learned of the meeting 24 hours in advance, 35 to 40 people attended, most of whom are against the proposal for various reasons. The only person he heard speak in favor was a fisherman with a bass boat.

The limit is currently 9.9 horsepower, and Gause said increasing that would pose a safety hazard for the increasing number of kayakers and paddle boarders that share the 396-acre lake with pontoon boats, sailboats and smaller watercraft.

“I don’t think the two are compatible on this size of lake,” he said.

Others are concerned the large horsepower motorboats will result in shoreline erosion, especially if the boaters ignore the idle requirement.

“I don’t know if you know anything about big engines but I can’t imagine anyone with a big engine going at idle speed,” Gause said. “There’s already an erosion problem along the shoreline and larger motors would make it worse.”

Residents wondered who would enforce the idle speed requirement since there has not been a ranger assigned to the state park in many years, but Gause said the ODNR official at the meeting told them a ranger would be assigned full-time to the park.

Gause said Guilford Lake is a stop for various breeds of migrating waterfowl and the fear is more and faster boats might cause problems for those migrating birds.“We think the wave action and noise would affect that,” he said.

Lifting the horsepower limit would draw more boaters, with the increased traffic and noise that follows eventually transforming the peaceful quality of life at Guilford Lake that has attracted residents and visitors for decades.

“During the (summer) holidays there are quite a few boats on the lake, but it wasn’t unpleasant. You didn’t hardly hear them at all,” Gause said, which he attributed to the 9.9 horsepower limit.

One person whose property is for sale told Gause he wants to move as quickly as possible before the horsepower limit is lifted. “Once the word gets out it will be a harder to sell,” Gause said he was told.

ODNR’s Stephanie Leis said they have been raising the horsepower limits at other state lakes since 2009 after considerable research showed it could be done effectively by focusing on changing boater behavior in regard to adopting a “no-wake management strategy … “

“It is important to maintain the peaceful and quiet characteristics of the boating experience for the community of lake users who have chosen to utilize these waters. In general, no-wake operation is far less disruptive than limited horsepower because even craft powered by 9.9 engines can produce significant noise, turbulence and wakes,” Leis wrote in an email.

“Another major component of the statewide lake management plan is to ensure that the greatest possible diversity in boating experiences is accessible to every region of the state, including Guilford Lake,” she concluded.

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