Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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City responding to west pier issues

by Chris Schultz

August 02, 2012

Before the end of this summer, the city will post signs reminding residents and visitors that swimming is allowed only in the marked beach area and that piers cannot be blocked or obstructed.

Getting boots on the ground to enforce it will take longer.

At the council's piers, harbors and lakefront committee on July 25, committee members heard complaints from Lake Geneva residents Casey Schiche and Don Heise that people are swimming around the piers on the west end of Library Park.

He said on one morning, he counted between 15 and 20 people lounging around the restroom area, cooking on grills illegally set up in the park, and running into and out of the water.

And they had their dogs with them. Certainly, the hot weather has had something to do with that, Schiche said.

But people and dogs in the water pose a safety hazard and potential liability to those who are trying to get their boats out of their leased slips.

He said kayaks are also being laid down across the piers, blocking access to slips.

Heise said the weekend is busy with boats, kayaks and jet skis contending with people who park themselves at the end of the pier and run into and out of the water.

Meanwhile, city ordinances also require that dogs in the park be on a leash 5 feet long or shorter.

That pretty much precludes Fido from leaping or running into the water in pursuit of a ball or stick.

City Administrator Dennis Jordan said the ordinances have been posted in the past, but the signs tend to "disappear" during the course of the summer.

Unless the ordinances are posted, the police can't enforce them.

The committee members agreed that the signs need to be reposted and this time in a way that makes it more difficult for them to disappear.

Police Chief Michael Rasmussen said he doesn't have the manpower to consistently patrol the west end of the park.

Mayor Jim Connors said Rasmussen's budget was cut earlier this year.

"We cut the chief's budget for reserve officers, so grills and dogs are a lot priority," Connnors said.

The city council cut the police department's budget for reserve officers last year, Rasmussen said. The opportunity to restore that cut won't come until the next budget in October.

After the meeting, Rasmussen said business owners in the downtown asked the council to cut back on the police presence along the beach. They feared the additional tickets and enforcement chased people away from their stores and businesses, he said.

In other business:

The committee will separate kayaks and paddleboards from dinghies.

Right now, an open area just west of the Lake Geneva beach is designated for the dingies, which are used by boat owners to reach their out to their boats, usually moored to one of the buoys.

But that area is being overrun by kayaks.

The kayaks and paddle boards will be moved to Baker Park, a strip of land just south of the city boat launch on Center Street.