During the meeting, which had many lake residents on edge, one individual’s comment was even construed as a direct threat to the officers. The individual was handled by local authorities immediately.
State Rep. Rebecca Kubaki spearheaded the meeting after receiving many complaints and comments about the DNR’s amped up enforcement. She said she’s heard comments from one extreme to another and she is attempting to reach a balance so individuals can enjoy the lake safely.
While the majority of comments were negative toward the DNR’s actions this summer on enforcing state boating laws, there were a few individuals who asked questions regarding the law and sought clarification.
Lt. John Kariss, commander of District One office of the DNR, took the brunt of all accusations and questions. He stated it was the department’s role to enforce the state and federal laws relating to boating and natural resources. He admitted there are a lot of issues he and other commanders need to get resolved and encouraged individuals to keep their questions general.
The DNR was accused of turning the lakes into a police state and using various excuses to stop a boat to look for alcohol. Some say they no longer go out for an evening cruise because they say officers are using binoculars to spy on boaters. “We don’t like it. Think about it and react appropriately,” stated Syracuse resident Michael Kubacki.
Kariss said the DNR has utilized all media outlets and other means to get the message out to the public that boating laws will aggressively be enforced.
Resident Dick Essig stated the lakes are recreational areas where people like to go out and enjoy themselves. He suggested, based on the substantial attendance at this morning’s meeting, the DNR has gotten their message across and it is now “time to back off.” His comment was met with applause.
Among the issues noted during the meeting was the right of officers to question someone’s actions on a pier, the appropriate use of lights on boats at night and proper spacing of stickers. Kariss was asked if officers are using binoculars to watch boaters or sitting at the mouth of channels near restaurants waiting on boaters, and what officers really need to stop a boater.
Rebecca Kubacki reminded residents they can use a state provided complaint form to address specific issues. Lt. Kariss also said it will take time to get conflicts resolved or addressed. He said some complaints made two to three weeks ago are just now appearing on his desk.
Kubacki was also present at the meeting and promised to work through legislation to get some laws changed and problems resolved.