Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Plea - Pine River Safety


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Photo By: Pine River Trails and Recreation
https://www.facebook.com/PineRiverTrailsProject/
Pesticides, roadways, pastures, etc.  Though inevitable, runoff is a reality in our water ways.  I'm not a "hippie" or "tree hugger".  I drive a Jeep, love my guns (have a CCW and carry one in my kayak), and do not have a compost pile in my yard.  But I'm a realist that loves the outdoors.  Runoff happens in our society, a fact of the evolution of society.  As an avid outdoorsman, professional kayak fisherman (who fishes tournaments, owns an outfitting company, is a guide, and a mentor to up-and-coming kayak anglers), I understand the importance of preserving our waterways for future generations.

Let alone environmental issues, there are enough waterway issues to make your head spin.  Where do we start?  We start with responsibility and mitigation.  This includes picking up your own garbage, picking up garbage of others you encounter on the water, and respecting the body of water you are on.  The last item has become a concerning issue in my hometown of Richland Center, Wisconsin where jet skiers have begun frequenting this narrow river.    

I now reside in Spring Valley, WI (between Menomonie and River Falls) where we are blessed with similar amazing river systems which frequent numerous tourists every year.  A motorized pleasure craft on the Red Cedar River or Kinnickinnic river would be obscene (though motorized fishing boats frequent the river without issue).  These narrow rivers are a haven for numerous wildlife, one of which is trout.  Trout, a draw for tourism, are sensitive to environmental changes.  A group of dedicated people in the Richland Center, WI area have gone to great lengths to fix and maintain this habitat which is now in danger of getting reversed.  

When I tell people I kayak and grew up in Richland Center, the instantly say, "I've paddled the Kickapoo!  I loved it!".  I agree, the Kickapoo provides an amazing waterway for anglers, paddlers, swimmers, campers, etc.  But I never hear anything about the Pine.  They were finally starting to move the Pine in the right direction to get "on the map" as a paddling destination, jet skiers are now putting that at risk.

My parents own a large motorized boat, they used to have jet skis which I thoroughly enjoyed on numerous occasions.  But there is a place for pleasure craft.  That is on larger bodies of waters capable of handling the wakes and traffic.  Running a jet ski (or any motorized pleasure craft creating a wake) on a river as narrow as the Pine is reckless and irresponsible.  

Should someone encounter a canoe, kayak, tube, or any other watercraft around a blind corner there is a high risk for collision.  This is why any fishing boats I encounter on the Red Cedar River are motoring no-wake.  Peaceful coexistence.  Let alone the human safety issues, there is an ecological impact having pleasure craft on this small river.

I frequently fish the sloughs of the Mississippi in Nelson, WI.  This beautiful area is covered in countless acres of water, beautiful bluffs, and amazing wildlife.  It also houses an amazing fishery.  You'll find this area filled with a variety of craft: canoe, kayaks, jon boats, fishing boats, large bass boats, air boats, and even hover craft.  But even in this large area, the narrow spots of the sloughs are marked no-wake because of the ecological impact of wakes and fast-moving motorized craft.

The motorized craft in shallow, narrow areas stir up the dirt and cause major erosion in the channel.  The wake causes erosion on the shore.  Yes, the water naturally erodes the shoreline and channels, but motorized craft exponentially speed this process if proper caution is not given to the area.  Let alone the safety issues for the motorized craft running these areas at high speed.  This can cause significant damage to the watercraft and/or injury/death to those on it.

This is not about spoiling someone's fun.  Yes, I would love to run a jet ski on the Pine.  I thought it was funny the first time I heard of it happening (assuming it was an early season one-time deal to get things ready for the season).  But to allow this to continue is irresponsible.  Running any motorized craft on that river, other than at no-wake speeds, is like allowing ATV traffic on the Elroy-Sparta bike trails year-round. 

As an avid kayak angler and EMT trainee, I am deeply concerned with this activity which can either be made no-wake or taken to a larger body of water.  Watercraft do not have brakes and human-powered craft have limited maneuverability.  I don't want to hear of ANYONE (kayaker, canoer, tuber, boater, jet skier) being injured or killed because of these activities.

Thus, as a friend, family member, and native of Richland Center, I ask those partaking in the activity make it no-wake or move to larger water.  I ask paddlers to stay off the river until they do.  And I call on local DNR and law enforcement to do what is right and make this a no-wake area.  I can't imagine responding to an EMS call involving a collision on that small river.  And I can't imagine telling a family member they lost a loved one enjoying one of their favorite pass-times whether it be boating, kayaking, jet skiing, canoeing, tubing, or floating down a river with a cooler full of beer in arm floaties.

My friends, family, and community members in the Richland Center, WI area, please be safe.  I know and love some of the people partaking in the jet ski activities. I beg you, please move on from this.

Tyler Thiede
A Proud Richland Center Native

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2 comments:

  1. Thank you Tyler for your very thoughtful, well-written blog post. I have done much research on this and have written a policy paper on it for our meetings with city, county and townships. State statutes 30.66 of boating regulations does give smaller jurisdictions the right to institute slow-no-wake ordinances. We are going through all the proper channels and attending all the proper governmental meetings as quickly as their calendars allow. If you don't mind, I would like to print your article and submit it with our growing evidence to all the concerned board members to peruse. I also will share this article in a few groups I have access to. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you Teri! Of course, feel free to print and use this as required. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. I am concerned for ALL involved in my hometown.

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