Burlington Reconsiders Personal Watercraft Regulation

Follow up to “Personal Water Craft Under Burlington Review”Wayne Gross, Burlington Parks and Recreation Director, reported that the recommendation to Burlington City Council was that no regulation of PWCs was necessary at this time. However his department will monitor PWC use in Burlington Harbor for the next two years and reconsider then. Gross notes that the company which was renting PWCs at the Burlington Community Boathouse will not be doing so in 1999.

At the Vermont state legislative level, PWC regulation is being considered. H.0239, if passed, would ban PWCs from all Vermont public waters except Lakes Bomoseen, Champlain, Memphremagog, and Seymour.

Personal Water Craft Under Burlington Review
by Ken Signorello

Burlington HarborAbout 35 people turned out at the Boathouse for a public hearing hosted by Burlington Parks and Recreation (P&R) on Jan. 6, 1999. P&R was directed by Burlington City Council to study personal water crafts 9 (pwc) and make recommendations to the Council at it’s Jan 19th meeting (not 11th as previously reported).

Twelve people spoke at the meeting with eight people in favor of some regulation and four against.

Chapin SpencerChapin Spencer, a Burlington City Councilor, said he has heard nothing but complaints about pwc’s at a Ward 1 Neighborhood Planning Meeting. He heard complaints about noise, pollution and safety. He claimed that a two hour ride on a pwc can dump three gallons of oil into the water. This is what inspired him to consider regulation.

This was disputed by Mike Gula who pointed out that outboards discharge their exaust into the water while pwc’s disperse it into the air, and pointed out that a pwc doesn’t use three gallons of fuel in two hours. So pwc’s probably pollute less than most other powerboats.

Ben Pacy, P&R staff, explained that Burlington has a unique regulatory capability because Burlington Harbor is included in Burlington City boundary as set forth by its state charter. P&R Staff said that there were no more incidents requiring enforcement with pwc’s than any other type of craft.

Others pointed out that pwc’s are already subject to regulation. The operator must be 16 years old or older, must have taken a boating class if under the age of 6 and must not make a wake within 200 feet of shore or other boats.

It was noted that some individuals behave irresponsibly but that dosen’t mean everyone does. The Newer machines seem to be quieter ant the stand up models are being replaced by sit down versions. Some were afraid that if banned form the Burlington Harbor they will have to drive to Shelburne or Colchester, wasting time and gas.

Kevin Rose, a local kayaker, pointed out that people buy pwc’s to jump wakes, turn circles, and go fast.

Most speaking in favor of regulation complained about the noise. “Quiet sunsets from North Beach are ruined by circling pwc’s in front of the beach”. Jeff Meyers, a Burlington paddler, said that pwd’s were “an inappropriate use of the harbor”

Robin Jeffers, who rents pwc’s at the Boathouse has had few incidents with her crafts and feels that existing law enforcement is all that is required.

There was some concern about the definition of a pwc. Sources say that the definition being considered are those pwc’s that carry one or two people. Those rented at the Boathouse carry three.

P&R will submit it’s recommendations on Jan. 19, 1999.