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Lakewood’s rules discourage nonmotorized lake uses

Post by Cheryl Tucker on Aug. 17, 2010 at 7:38 pm |
August 17, 2010 5:58 pm

Maik Darley of Tacoma gives Dakota a ride on a stand-up paddle board at the 2009 Freedom Fair in Tacoma.
This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

A recent incident at American Lake in Lakewood – related in Kathleen Merryman’s column Saturday – illustrates what can happen when rules are too broadly applied.

In this instance, a woman pursuing the newly popular sport of paddleboarding encountered a police officer strictly enforcing rules that obviously were meant to apply to boats. She was told that she must license her paddleboard and pay a $10 launch fee at the lake’s new boat launch.

She was treated as if she were trying to illegally launch a motorboat when all she wanted to do was get in the water with her paddleboard. Licenses aren’t required for kayaks and canoes, much less paddleboards.

Figuring, justifiably, that it was ridiculous to charge a person $10 to put a paddleboard in the water, she walked to the nearby swimming beach and got in the water there. One problem with that move: Flotation devices like rafts, surfboards and paddleboards aren’t allowed in the popular swimming area – at least when a lifeguard is there enforcing the rule.

The result: She got a $125 ticket for failing to obey the lifeguard and a $87 ticket for failing to wear a flotation device.

The paddleboarder should not have broken the rules, but in this case the rules are kind of silly. If she couldn’t get into the water at the beach, she would have to pay $10 at the boat launch and hope she wouldn’t get hit by someone backing a motorboat into the lake?

There is an alternate area on American Lake – an old launch site at the end of Lake City Boulevard – where the woman could have gotten into the water for free. But apparently no one suggested that to her, the city’s website doesn’t mention it and no signs suggest that’s a good place for nonmotorized launching.

Lakewood should be trying to encourage nonmotorized lake uses for environmental and physical health reasons, but its $10 launch fee does just the opposite.

The city has made a point in recent years of trying to expand access to its lakes. Here’s an area that needs more work. With paddleboarding’s growing popularity, other lake visitors likely will encounter the same conflict with the city’s rules.

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