Auke Lake needs watercraft enforcement

Posted: Monday, May 01, 2000

What are the rules concerning jet-ski activities on Auke Lake? Over the last five years, I have been able to observe the changes on Auke Lake and I am not proud of what I see. I have noticed the 5 mph speed-limit signs posted around the lake ignored, empty beer cans in the parking area and jet-ski operators without life vests traveling across the water in excess of 30 miles per hour.

The first summer I lived at university housing was 1995. I recall going to the rope swing and kayaking on Auke Lake as a weekend affair. Hundreds (if not thousands) of ducks, half a dozen eagles, and a couple beaver lodges were a common sight in 1995. A jet-ski broke the silence occasionally. In the summer of 1996, a couple of beautiful swans made the lake their summer home and were the subject of many photographs and even the KTOO film crew. Boating activities increased slightly. The summer of 1997 was beautiful and warm. More jet-ski activity, fewer waterfowl.

Those afraid that teen-agers would use the rope swing area at Auke Lake as a drinking haven cut it down in the middle of the night without proper permission.

The next summer, many of the kids who frequented the rope swing could be found hanging out with the jet-skiers. Jet-ski and water machine activities exploded. Adolescents, who probably weren't old enough to have a driver's license, were flying across the lake without life vests while completely ignoring kayakers.

Last summer, jet-skis were on Auke Lake at least every sunny day. The put-in area became popular for parties and alcohol was often present. I personally know of two jet-ski operators who rode on the lake immediately after having a beer. What kind of example is this setting for the teen-agers (who some feared would be drinking at the old rope swing if it were still there)?

As a river guide, I am well aware of the dangers of both calm and turbulent water. I am appalled by the blatant disrespect for nature and safety on Auke Lake by jet-skiers. As the frequency of jet-ski activities on Auke Lake has increased, the amount of wildlife has decreased. Since there is no sign of authority at Auke Lake, the jet-skiers boat without regard to rules or boating etiquette. By ignoring rules, the haphazard actions of jet-skiers will eventually result in a dangerous accident. The parking lot at the lake put-in is becoming a recreational area whether the city approves or not.

In lieu of the most recent jet-ski accident off North Douglas, I suggest the city should place a sign with laws and rules at the boat put-in area of Auke Lake so that water machine operators know what behaviors are allowed and expected from them.

Boat responsibly, as more accidents and legal violations will put the privilege of boating on Auke Lake in jeopardy.

Mike Heiman is a student at the University of Alaska Southeast and a resident of campus housing.

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