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Wake-enhanced boating debate continues, towns say to pump the brakes

Posted at 6:53 AM, Apr 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-19 10:07:11-04

WAUPACA COUNTY — The towns of Farmington and Dayton held a joint town board meeting Thursday evening to discuss the hot-button issue of wake-enhanced boating on local waterways.

  • The major takeaway from the meeting was the establishment of an ad-hoc committee (pending acceptance of each member) to study the wake-enhanced boating issue and recommend action to the town boards
  • Town board members told passionate residents that they needed to involve local law enforcement and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources before crafting a ban or restrictions on wake-enhanced boating
  • This meeting came after a vocal group of Town of Dayton residents presented their town board with a petition to enact restrictions Tuesday
  • Video shows the crowd at the board meeting

(The following is the transcription of the full web story)

We're in the town of Dayton in Waupaca County, where Thursday night there was more spirited discussion on the issue of wake-enhanced boating on small lakes.

"Pass this! Because the agenda says 'discuss and approve,'" Farmington town board member Phil Durrant said at one point during the meeting, imitating town chair Caroline Murphy.

"For those of you that have been running around saying 'Dayton doesn't do anything' — shut up," Dayton town chair Jeff Barlow said.

Two town boards — Dayton and Farmington — came together in front of a packed room of residents.

The boards determined that something needs to be done to address the wake boating — and they need to do it together, because some of these bodies of water sit in both towns.

The Dayton town board chair implored residents to be patient as they work with law enforcement and the DNR on a wake boating ordinance.

"Let us do this our way, and not your way," Barlow said. "After all, we are the ones that will ultimately be held accountable. You have no idea how much time, and much we work, for the best interest of this entire township."

This comes after a group of people in Dayton petitioned their town board on Tuesday to enact some restrictions on wake boating.

"I think we stirred up a hornet's nest on Tuesday night,"said Mark Kunstman, a board member on a local lake association.

Kunstman was selected to be part of an ad-hoc committee that officials formed at the meeting, to study and address the wake boating issue.

He is not shy that he is opposed to the wake-enhanced boating, citing issues with erosion and interference with fishing.

"The water is so riled up that I can't even see the bottom," he said. "It's gotten worse over the last three years. I can only attribute that to these boats."

Opponents of a ban say wake boats are being unfairly singled out, and that there is no proof they are causing problems.

The board said they hope to include both perspectives on the ad-hoc committee — and made sure they invited a member of law enforcement to be a part of it, too.

"We have to have our sheriff's department buy in if we are going to have this enforced," Dayton board member Brett Grams said. "But I have yet to have anybody tell me that the Waupaca County Sheriff is willing to enforce this.

We reached out to sheriff Timothy Wilz Thursday evening, but were told he was in a meeting and later told he was not in.

The wake boating ad-hoc committee is expected to have a recommendation for the town boards by May 17.