Slowing things down
Wake marker initiative seeks to improve safety, protect wildlife
By Darren Lum
It was a beautiful and arresting sight for Jen Maher-Welch to see loons with their nest close to her West Guilford home. She’d never seen anything like it in the 10 years of living on the river between Pine Lake and Green Lake.
However a few days later, following a busy weekend of watercraft traffic, they were gone, abandoning the nest. Maher-Welch saw many people on the road and the water stop or turn around to see the nest over the weekend. Many also sped past, leaving large wakes that overran the nest. She believes the wakes are related to the birds leaving.
Although her river is not part of the Redstone Lake Cottagers Association Private Buoy Program initiative, Maher-Welch supports their effort, and said it can alert watercraft users to wildlife and direct them to slow down.
“I think the more awareness that you can put out there for everyone to see and kind of bring everyone’s attention to it [the better]. I think it gets forgotten that, you know, there’s other things happening around you while you’re out and enjoying things. You’re out on your boat. Sometimes there’s a need for speed and people can get a little carried away and forget their surroundings,” she said.
She hopes the initiative is the beginning of other efforts on other lakes.
RLCA’s Mike Johnson, a full-time resident on Redstone Lake for nine years and seasonal resident for 25 years, said the buoy program is to get watercraft users to slow down, for their own safety and to reduce wakes, which lead to shoreline erosion and can harm natural surroundings such as nests.
The association started installing hazard buoys in 2018.
Ten buoys alert boaters to hidden shoals or rocks, and have been installed on Big Redstone, Little Redstone and Pelaw Lake. Johnson said the program has been well accepted and it was suggested the RLCA move toward protecting the shoreline. An additional nine buoys were installed asking boaters to not create boat wakes at narrow points of land. There are also two buoys to alert watercraft users about swimmers and navigation buoys between Redstone and Little Redstone Lake. The program is managed by nine volunteers, who install the buoys each spring and remove and store them in the autumn, he said.
Although Johnson said he’s not aware of any watercraft user hitting rock outcroppings in recent memory, residents wanted to improve the safety of everyone on the water – whether for those in boats or outside of them.
He said there might be less boat traffic, but boats are getting larger, creating larger wakes.
Some boaters have been surprised there was even an issue, he said.
Johnson hopes raising awareness among these longtime users will lead to fewer wakes, which have proven to add to erosion along the shorelines of narrow waterways.
The significant wakes are created by wake boats. “They’re the killer ...They really have a damage,” he said.
Johnson said he’s heard anecdotally that the program is generating positive results.
Pointing to a boat operator entering Oshawa Bay, he said: “You can see his wake. Very minimal wake. So maybe those buoys are working with him [when] he may have come roaring in here before. I don’t know. But that is great to see.”
Maher-Welch, who has considered posting signs alerting watercraft users to be aware of wildlife, is a lifelong boater with decades of experience, and said it comes down to respect, watercraft operator responsibility and operation skills.
“I was brought up differently. You take care of things. When you’re driving a boat you take care of the shore. It’s awareness I already had built into me. Maybe I was a little more aware of it than others. It was really great to see a lot of people stopping their boats as they were cruising up and down the river and enjoy that seeing the nest and the loon. A lot of people zipped on by and didn’t even know it was there. There is a lot of different focuses out there ... I don’t think they are doing it out of any malice. It’s more a lack of awareness. I have to believe that,” she said.