The city of Oak Park Heights is considering a request from Sunnyside Marina for a no-wake zone on the river to protect its boats, boaters, and docks. Employees and boaters at the marina say more big boats on the river in recent years, and a decline in courtesy, have created dangerous situations.
The idea is up for public consideration at a hearing on Sept. 25 at 6 p.m. It will be held at Oak Park Heights City Hall, 14168 Oak Park Blvd. N., Oak Park Heights, MN 55082.
In August during the council’s first discussion of the matter, councilmember Mark Swenson declared he was opposed outright. He was overruled in trying to immediately reject the proposal. Swenson said he didn’t think wakes were causing a major problem, and a speed limit would add travel time.
The rest of the council agreed to hold a hearing before deciding.
Bombarded by big wakes on busy days, Sunnyside says restricting wakes on about a quarter-mile of river would protect people and property.
“This has become a safety issue for us at Sunnyside,” marina manager Rick Chapman told KSTP News. “The wakes are becoming quite dangerous for our slip owners and for our employees working the docks and this no-wake would only stretch from the south end of our marina to the north end.”
An employee at Sunnyside’s busy gas dock reported almost being pulled into the water and trapped between boats due to large wakes.
Earlier this year, Stillwater’s city council held a hearing and voted to request a no-wake zone on a stretch of the river a short ways upstream. There would be slightly less than a mile (approx. 4,000 feet) separating the two proposed zones.
The Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources must approve such requests. At the end of August, those agencies held a meeting about Stillwater’s request.
No-wake zones are currently located at Hudson, Afton, and the Kinnickinnic River narrows.
In addition to causing safety issues, large wakes can also cause significant erosion on the river banks. This can degrade shoreline property, harm habitat, and muddy the waters.