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Census shows slight increase in boat numbers

This year's boat census shows a slight increase in the number of boats moored and stored around Geneva Lake. The annual census is conducted by the Geneva Lake Environmental Agency and the Water Safety Patrol.

October 19, 2011 | 07:32 AM
WILLIAMS BAY — The boat count on Geneva Lake is again up slightly over last year.

In fact, the count seems to be rebounding from what may have a low point in 2008, when the census counted just 4,920 boats.

The 2011 boat count is officially 5,232, a modest, but noticeable increase over the 5,011 counted in 2010.

The low 2008 boat census may have a number of causes, including bad weather, rising gasoline prices and a recession, which may have dissuaded some from vacationing.

What the increasing number of boats on Geneva Lake means is hard to say, said Ted Peters, director of the Geneva Lake Environmental Agency.

But there may be other factors involved, such as boaters trading in larger boats for smaller ones, and an increase in personal watercrafts, he said.

Certainly, it meant busy boating days on the lake.

If all 5,232 boats had been on the lake at once, it would have meant one boat per acre of lake surface, making water skiing runs very short.

If all of the boats were moored along the lake at the same time, there would have been one boat parked for every 21 or so feet of shoreline.

On a cool, wet Aug. 30, the Geneva Lake Environmental Agency and the Water Safety Patrol conducted a count of boats in the Geneva Lake area.

Boats counted are moored, docked or in dry storage, said Peters. Boats on the lake are not counted to prevent the possibility of double counting.

So, a good day to count boats is usually a bad day for boating, Peters said.

Overall, Geneva Lake remains a popular boating lake, Peters said.

There is no evidence the heavy traffic is resulting in more pollution of the lake, either, Peters said.

Newer motorboats are relatively clean and do not spill gas or oil into the lake, he said.

A concern about the effects of boats on the quality of Geneva Lake revolves less around the number of boats and the types of boats compared to how the boats are driven and used, Peters said.

"From visual observation, on a day of heavy usage, the water loses clarity, but it's mostly resuspended sediments," he said.

Those sediments are kicked up by the boats crisscrossing the lake.

Peters said the annual boat count is to determine the use of boats on the lake over time.

That information is used for lake management purposes, he said.

"We manage for recreation, mainly boat use, and there are safety and health factors that come into this," Peters said.

The boats counted are divided into four categories, including motorboats, sailboats, personal watercraft and others.

"Personal watercrafts: includes jet skis and wave runners, while "others" includes kayaks, canoes, dinghies, rowboats or any motorboats under 10 horsepower.

"This helps us look at trends," Peters said. "Really, for us, we use it to look at to know how to manage use of the lake."

This year, as in years past, motorboats is the largest category at 3,274.

Boats in the "others" category numbered 874.

A total of 689 personal watercraft were counted. Sailboats, once the queens of the lake, were the smallest category at 395.

In fact, until 2001, sailboats were the second most abundant.

Since 2002, however, personal watercraft, and now "others," have taken the second spot.

The GLEA has been keeping track of the boat count for about the past 25 years.

Peters said previous lake use surveys show boating on the lake always "is one of the major issues perceived by the people."

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