City OKs no-wake zone on Mon RIver
Ban will be enforced once buoys in place
BY AMANDA DePROSPERO
The Dominion Post
A new rule is making waves — or rather stopping them — on the Monongahela River along Morgantown’s riverfront park.
As soon as the buoys are in place, a no-wake zone will be in effect and will be enforceable for the section of river between Morgantown’s Lock and Dam and 500 feet below the Westover Bridge, said Lt. Jon Cogar with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR).
The WVDNR and the Morgantown Police Department will have the authority to enforce the idling no-wake zone, which means watercraft in that area can make no wake at all, he said.
Tim Terman, who spends many of his weekends cleaning up trash in the river, was one of the main forces behind the no-wake zone. He brought the proposal before Morgantown City Council, which passed the resolution April 19. The paperwork was then passed through the DNR.
“I’ve seen too many dangerous incidents on the river already, and at this point, there aren’t really that many boaters. But we’re seeing more kayaks, rowers, swimmers, and having in that mix boats running full throttle through the Wharf District presents a danger to everyone,” Terman said via email. “So, having a no-wake zone will slow boats — just from the Westover Bridge through the Wharf District, to the lock. It won’t be such a bother, really, for such a short distance. But we may have saved a life or prevented serious injury.”
In addition to protection for kayakers, swimmers, rowers and those on non-motorized boats, the no-wake zone will help protect the boats that are docked or in rented spaces at the Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners (BOPARC) docks in the Wharf District and riverfront park. Heavy wakes can jostle boats and injure boaters, he said.
Towboats, Terman said, aren’t a concern as they move very slowly through the water already.
“But boats with huge motors can come around the bend below the bridge and be upon a kayaker or swimmer very quickly,” he said. “And if the sun is in the operator’s eyes, there could be an accident.”
Jimmy King, WVU’s head rowing coach, said he supports the no-wake zone both for the rowing teams and any regular river users.
“Recreational use of the river has increased substantially in the four years that I have been coaching at WVU,” King said via email. “In addition to the fishermen and the rowers, we now commonly see tri-athletes swimming in the river, canoeists, kayakers and recreational boaters including those riding PWCs (personal watercrafts, such as waverunners). Whereas the lock and dam has always been a prime fishing area, the BOPARC docks have made the Wharf District a destination point for all.”
“I spoke to two yacht owners who were up here docking at the marina from around Pittsburgh,” Terman said. “They said they come up here to visit because it’s peaceful and quiet. So, a no-wake zone will help preserve that.”
BOPARC director Mark Wise could not be reached for comment in time for this report.
Also, not only is a no-wake zone good for recreational use of the river, but it also protects the shoreline and the boats moored at the public marina and dock near the city’s riverfront park. Though most boaters are considerate and take precautions not to swamp others, some don’t take responsibility for their wake and the damage it causes. And it’s not just that some wakes can dump people out onto the deck of their boats or in the water, but the potential exists for a collision to occur without a no-wake zone on a busy weekend. The Monongahela River’s shoreline is often subject to its own highs and lows — strong currents and occasional flooding. But as a rule the waves along its banks are generally soft and consistent in the area that’s been designated a no-wake zone. The harm to shorelines by the wakes of some boats is especially damaging in developed areas. This no-wake zone should also lend itself to increased visits to the marina in this area by non-motorized craft. There are miles and miles of the river where recreational boaters in powerful watercraft can range freely with wake-boarders and water-skiers in tow. This no-wake zone probably covers less than a mile of the river’s breadth. It’s not too much to ask that anyone wanting to embrace a calm outing on the river from the seat of a kayak or a canoe should be allowed to do so. As resolutions go, many are unenforceable or make no provision for enforcement. In this case take note: City Council gave both the police department and the Division of Natural Resources authority to enforce this rule. No-wake buoys should soon mark this zone on the river. Now, if we could just calm some of the traffic on land.