Conservation Minnesota

Limiting Public Boating Access as an Option

I’m a canoer and kayaker in terms of water recreation.  I’ve never owned a motorboat, and rarely been in one in recent years.  I think about this in terms of the increasingly heated discussion of possibly limiting public access to metro lakes and streams.

I mean, after all, free public access to launch a boat into Minnesota’s vast waterways seems like a birthright to our citizens. We pride ourselves on being a great boating and fishing state. Finding a public access and using it is like finding a roadway to drive your vehicle on, as long as you have the proper licenses.

So some of the current proposals to construct electronic gates or have government personnel at popular public accesses in the metro area seem like a real threat, and even an infringement on individual freedom to some folks.  But the increasing level of aquatic invasive species is a real threat too, and all options should be considered and discussed.

When I finish up canoeing or kayaking, wherever I am, I do look at the bottom and sides of my craft and dispose of any vegetation in the departing waterbody.  It’s a relatively easy thing to do, since I don’t have a motor or metal hinges on the sides of my smaller boats. Not so easy with motorized boats though, and the owners have to be especially diligent about removing aquatic vegetation.

As with other aspects of life.  Some people are careful cleaners; some do it quickly just to get it done, and it may not always get done. Limiting some public accesses may be the only way to curtail aquatic invasives, and the ecology and enjoyment of our lakes and rivers is at stake for current and future generations.

Personal responsibility to do the right thing is of paramount importance here.  I don’t like more restrictions to hamper what I enjoy in life, and I certainly don’t want any inability to launch my canoe wherever I may please, but as Pogo says, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”  We must look at this with open minds and realize that some restrictions in the short term may benefit us, our children, and the environment in the long run.

About John Helland

John Helland

John Helland is a history graduate of the University of Minnesota. He served as the nonpartisan legislative research analyst for the Minnesota House of Representatives after graduation. He worked extensively on environment and natural resources legislation and issues, and was the primary nonpartisan research staffer for the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committees from 1971 to 2008.

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