In My Opinion: Bullies on Hooker Lake
By Tim J. Vanderhoef, Salem~Contributor
Many of you residents of Salem and Paddock Lake have not been paying attention to the bullies changing our tiny 87 acre Hooker Lake into a free-for-all skiing and wake boarding lake. Some of it is your own fault for not getting involved.
The struggles on Hooker Lake wake hours and heavy boat use caused some residents to try to protect their properties. It started in 2009 when one family requested buoys, which was approved by the Salem Town Board to do in 2010.
During that time you could have returned your surveys to the Hooker Lake Management District board (HLMD) but you chose to ignore and failed to attend the Hooker Lake meetings at the Salem town hall. It signaled to some board members that you don’t care.
Yes, some of you jumped at the chance to sign the petition last fall, but you did nothing after that. If you are a nature lover or fisherman on Hooker Lake, you could be affected by changes on Hooker Lake. Pending an official ordinance vote on Oct. 14, the wake hours will change to 10 a.m. to sunset, seven (7) days a week. Forget quietly fishing or kayaking along the shorelines any night there is skiing.
The wake distance from shore remains at 200 feet from shore. The boaters have always stated that they do not violate the 200-foot distance and that the waves are not causing deteriorating sea walls and shorelines. They also tried to change the wake distance down to 100-feet, but the motion failed.
A few residents on Hooker Lake had requested Slow No-wake buoys to protect their properties from the heavy waves. They filled out the DNR permit applications as requested. Everyone knew there was one GPS location that was recorded wrong and was to be corrected before being sent to the DNR.
In a special meeting on Sept. 16 the Salem Board voted to approve the buoy requests and pass them on to the DNR for approval or denial. This was all set in stone and ready to go but on Sept. 30, I and two other residents who requested the buoys were notified by e-mail, that there was to be another special meeting at 6 p.m. Much to our surprise the buoy issue was again on the agenda. So much for notifying us as had been done in the past!
Also to our surprise, there were well over 50 loud boating and skiing enthusiasts who obviously had advance notification of the meeting. With such short notice only three of those in favor of the buoys were able to attend. The board brought up the already voted-on issue and the shouting began.
A letter from Jason Roberts, SE Wisconsin Safety Warden, was read to the board and lake residents. Roberts’ letter should have signaled to the Salem Board members that they were free from having to make an unpopular vote on Monday night and just say the Recreational Safety Warden did not see a conflict to help boaters delineate the 200′ distance. Even the many photos sent to the Salem Board that clearly showed the closeness of the speedboats and jet skis to piers were blatantly ignored.
In his letter dated Sept. 30, regarding the buoys to be added, Roberts states “…The application will be approved based upon the need to delineate the already established 200-foot ordinance in place within the township. The presence of these markers will not take away recreational opportunities, as the 200-foot ordinance should be followed whether the buoys are in place or not. As the Recreational Safety Warden I do not see a conflict with the placement of these buoys to help boaters visually recognize the 200-foot ordinance currently in place within the township… .”
These statements should have prompted all board members to vote to send the permits to the DNR as they had already done. Instead, the Board sabotaged the property owners voting against the buoys and against passing on the permits to the DNR.
The DNR gives residents the ability to request safety no-wake buoys to keep the ski boats at the distance of 200-feet which is a town ordinance. It was to protect their property and they clearly had that right and were unfairly denied that right. The Salem Board took those options away. Shame on them!
In every book I’ve read, the exact types of lake descriptions like: waves washing against shorelines, small bay areas, and protected areas, were clearly cited as needing buoys to slow down traffic in certain zones. It was as if the authors of these publications were watching from the shorelines on Hooker Lake during the skiing sessions and said, “Wow, this is exactly why we give residents the ability to request Safety No Wake buoys.”
But the bullies and the biased board members chose to ignore all the facts. It really was shameful. They may say it was all about the erosion and safety, but it was so much more than that.
And the DNR agrees there is much more than those two criteria; like protecting “sensitive” habitat areas, the shape, depth and narrowness of the bay, the huge waves and other factors. All the board had to do was pass the corrected permit applications on to the DNR to pass or fail. They didn’t have to vote this way. Those board members are no better that the shouting mob who bullied their “my way or the highway” attitude. Remember their names.
So lake residents and users of Hooker Lake, it may not happen every day, and hopefully may only happen during skiing seasons, but make no mistake, your lack of action has given the “need for speed boaters” the ability to extend their strangle hold over Hooker Lake.
It was once a quiet fishing lake but now you may only get to fish in the mornings before 10am. Well, that is until next September at the annual Hooker Lake meeting when they will again try to open up the lake from sunrise to sunset or again challenge the 200-foot from shore rule. Let that be a warning to other lakes. I and others tried but politics, greed and not sharing the lake has won out.
Whoever said, “Good guys always finish last” was certainly right. We are willing to share the lake but the others are not. Without interference from the DNR they will soon have it all.