'No Wake' Stirs More Waves

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

A weekend boating accident involving a Winnebago County sheriff's deputy is creating more waves today over the permanent no wake zone on part of the Rock River.

Many boaters believe new regulations are keeping people away from the water. And the sheriff's department says changes to those new regulations could be on the way.

Mark Mercer says it was the shock of his life, a Winnebago County sheriff's boat slams right into the back of his boat.

It happened near Shorewood Park where a temporary no wake zone was in place. The sheriff's deputy said he was trying to slow Mark's boat down but in the process his throttle got stuck.

"The sheriff can maybe lose the no wake zone because it actually almost got me killed," says Mercer.

While it was a thousand feet south of the hotly contested 'no wake' zone near Martin Park, the accident is still stirring debate against what boaters see as over regulation,
"I don't think this no wake zone is actually helping - I think - at this point - it possibly injures people," adds Mercer.

Many riverfront business owners say the 'no wake' zones and the constant safety checks make the Rock River unfriendly to boaters – who are now going elsewhere. Just this past Wednesday the Rockford Marina shut down because of slumping sales.

"The sheriff needs to do what is best for the community and that is to promote our river - not to scare everyone off of it," says Steve Lucas, who owns a business along the Rock River.

Deputy Chief Kurt Diztler says there are still plenty of areas for boaters to cruise down the Rock River. The goal of the no wake zone is to keep boaters safe. But the sheriff's office is asking the department of natural resources to make adjustments to its no wake rule.

"We sent correspondence last week requesting that they take a look at shortening the length of the no wake."

An answer is expected this week. In the meantime, the no wake zone continues to make waves across town as well as on websites now devoted to overturning the regulation.

The sheriff's department is not filing any charges nor issuing any tickets for Sunday’s accident.

If you'd like to voice your opinion on the no wake zone – head to www.rrnowake.com.

The Department of Natural Resources requires 150 feet , or about 35,000 square feet, around a public boat launch to be designated as a 'no wake' zone. The zone around Martin Park is more than one million square feet.

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