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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 21, 2011

Motorboats cause a stir on Warner’s Lake, leave controversy in their wake

By Saranac Hale Spencer

WARNER LAKE — The Hofbrau won’t be opening a boat launch as a commercial venture this year.

Earlier this summer, some residents around the small lake in East Berne expressed concern about the amount of motorboat traffic on the lake — they were worried about more traffic if the Hofbrau’s boat launch were opened.  The group staged a protest last month on June 26.

Bart Mullen, president of the Warner’s Lake Improvement Association, outlined some of the organization’s primary concerns in a letter to the town supervisor, George Gebe, in May.  Among them were opening the lake to invasive species — nearby Thompson’s Lake has been contaminated by zebra mussels — increasing pollution, noise, and traffic on the lake.

“I was thinking about it at the beginning of the year, but decided against it,” said John Pleat, who owns the restaurant.  “I don’t know about next year,” he said.

As has been the case for years, the launch on his property has been used by the Jewish Community Center’s camp for teenagers, which offers water skiing, tubing, and knee boarding from the back of motorboats.

Of the four motorboats that the camp owns, it uses two for recreational activities and saves two for emergency use, said camp director, Andrew Katz.

“We’re respectful of the lake residents,” he said, noting that, after getting complaints last year about noise and wakes from the boats, the camp has instructed its staff to be mindful of wakes.  He estimated that the camp runs boats on the lake for three to four hours on an average day.

Katz also stressed that there are other motorboats on the lake.

Many of the other boats enter the lake through Willard Osterhout’s launch, which is located just down the street from The Hofbrau, Pleat said.

Osterhout lets members of the Improvement Association and friends use his private launch, he said, adding, “I have not made a nickel from that boat launch.”  Last year, he said, a number of people joined the association in order to use the boat launch, so this year he has restricted its use.

“Kayaks, canoes, and sailboats are not a problem,” Osterhout said, it’s the motorboats, which have gotten bigger over the years, that cause a problem.  He estimated that this year he’s been launching about two boats a day on an average weekend.

Last year, he said, with the number of people wanting to use the launch, “It really became an big inconvenience for me.”  Now, he said, “I tend to favor local residents.”

Regulating traffic on the lake is not a straightforward issue since different state agencies can weigh in on different aspects of lake access.  For example, Mullen said, if any structure is built in the water of the lake, like a dock or boat launch, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation would be involved and a boat launch that would require access to a state road, like the one that skirts the lake, would trigger involvement with the state’s Department of Transportation.

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