River petition protest makes waves

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-112067020632640.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rick fiduccia’, ‘Boaters line up to protest: Steve Lucas, owner of Rock River Enterprises and Barge Inc., and Patti French help a boat pull up to Lucas’ barge to sign the petition protesting the new No Wake Zone during the Fourth of July weekend. More than 500 signatures were collected on the river and at various businesses to remove the new No Wake Zone between the Riverside bridge and the island owned by Rockford Country Club.’);

Boaters angry; Sheriff Meyers calls meeting

During the Fourth of July weekend, Steve Lucas, owner of Rock River Enterprises and Barge Inc., collected more than 500 signatures to remove the new No Wake Zone between the Riverside bridge and the island owned by Rockford Country Club.

Lucas placed his barge just off the Martin Park boat ramp to collect signatures. On Saturday and Sunday, a portable road sign on the barge read: “Remove No Wake Zone at Martin Park Sign Petition here.” On Monday, the sign read: “Unhappy with Martin Park Wake Zone? Call Sheriff Meyers 987-5920.” Petitions were also circulated at various businesses that Rock River boaters frequent. Lucas said he collected the signature in a total of just five hours for the two days.

Lucas said: “Boaters were confused why the previous No Wake Zone was converted to a quarter-mile stretch, when there didn’t seem to be a problem with the previous zone. One family of boaters yelled, ‘We support the No Wake Zone,’ as they cruised by the barge, making a wake in the new No Wake Zone. They obviously didn’t have a clue as to what No Wake really means.

“Several boaters asked why they just don’t turn the lagoon at Martin Park into another Sportscore 1-like facility. Then they wouldn’t have boats launching in the current,” Lucas added.

“I spoke to Sheriff Meyers this morning, and he supported revisiting the No Wake Zone with the DNR; and if DNR removed the new No Wake Zone, they would assume all liability.” Lucas said. “I also asked him if there were a lot of boat accidents at Martin Park, and he said he would have to check on it because he was not aware of it.

“The Sheriff’s Department brought the DNR up to look at the No Wake Zone, and the DNR supported them,” Lucas said. “The sheriff is the one who started it; however, the old No Wake Zone was not properly marked at 150 feet from the ramp. That could have made the DNR unfairly think the channel was narrower than it should be. I would be glad to volunteer my services to help the sheriff place buoys at the proper 150-feet locations.”

Lucas said he was forwarding the petitions to the DNR through an attorney who is working on the matter.

Legal questions also exist concerning proper filing procedures for the new No Wake Zone.

Lucas said: “The local public was never informed of the new zone. It was passed in May of 2000 and was posted on the DNR Web site for protests, but no one knew.”

Lucas noted another point of concern for boaters and the DNR was a sandbar across the river from Martin Park: “The sandbar comes out just a few feet farther than the distance from shore a homeowner’s dock is permitted to extend in the river. Most of the sandbar comes from run-off from the North Towne parking lot. We are checking on legality of the owners of the mall’s responsibility for having that sandbar removed.”

Rick Fiduccia, who discovered the possible legal problems concerning the Sheriff’ and DNR’s filing procedures and helped Lucas gather petitions, said: “The Rock River is such a remarkable place. The response was overwhelming to the petition drive last weekend. I knew boaters didn’t care for the No Wake Zone at Martin Park, but the comments I heard as people signed the petitions went well beyond being upset. We are continuing the work of removing the extended NoWake Zone and returning it to the standard 150 feet around the docks as required by the DNR. I want to say thank you to everyone who interrupted their boating time to sign the petition.”

Lucas and Fiduccia are meeting with the Sheriff’s Department and a DNR representative on Wednesday, July 6, at Sheriffs Dick Meyer’s initiative.

Meyers did not return a call for comment by press time on Tuesday.

From the July 6-12, 2005, issue

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