Sep 10, 2007

Email Sent to Parks Dept.

Delivered using the contact form on the National Parks Service Gateway Recreation Area page. Note for non-locals - Jamaica Bay is a wildlife preserve and there is a ban on jetskis in the area.

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am a Jamaica Bay kayaker who is disturbed by developments in the Bay this summer. I and other paddling friends have noticed an upswing in the number of jetskis in the bay. Rumours from a source we tended to trust said that the ban was no longer in effect; however an individual who had not heard that reported a jetskier to the NYPD harbor patrol. He was told that the ban was still in effect, but was no longer enforced because no one complained. Apparently the officer encouraged my friend to do so - idea being that if people complained, the police would resume enforcing the ban. He was told that the complaints had to be made in person.

This is rather like the highway patrol asking motorists to call in complaints about speeders.

Assuming that the jetski ban is for environmental reasons, it should be enforced. Jamaica Bay is a wonderful resource & I'd like to see every feasible action taken to protect it - enforcing extant rules seems like a very simple way to do so.

However, I feel that it is extremely unfair to ask individual recreational boaters to collect the registration number of other recreational boaters, report them & get them taken off the water. My own access has been threatened enough (I used to paddle in the Hudson River Park, and kayaks on North River & the Upper Harbor have been a matter of contention in our own right) that I'm just not comfortable doing that.

Please don't ask me to do the job that the parks service and law enforcement should be doing.

Thank you.



Cross-posted at Frogma


pcastagner said...

Let me clarify - I was told by dispatch, not the officer, that the rule was not enforced. She was speaking to the officer and relaying his responses and mine. Telephone game is possible... We mused together that it was from lack of complaints, but who knows "why" they don't enforce. It may be a false assumption to assume complaining will lead to enforcement... but worth a try!

bonnie said...

Thanks for the clarification.

I did a bit of research on this before I sent that letter. I knew so little about the ban I didn't know where to stand on it.

I found out that it's a National Park Service wide ban. It was instituted in 2002 and was very upsetting for the jetskiers who up until then had had unlimited access (and in some cases were literally trapped in their marinas). The reasons given were noise, safety, and studies that had shown jet ski related environmental damage. It was challenged & upheld - although I found a Friends of the Earth petition from earlier last year looking at specifically altering the rules for J-bay & Sandy Hook, so it's still in play.

If it was just noise & safety, I'm not sure I'd have said anything. We've got helicopters, cigarette boats, and of course a steady parade of jumbo jets flying low overhead once every 15 minutes - the incremental noise caused by jet skiers doesn't bother me all that much. Safety - well, they have to follow the same CG rules as everybody else - beyond that, the pointing at a boat & saying "That is inherently unsafe & should be banned" was one of the tactics the anti-recreational people in the upper harbor used, so I listen to nanny mentality arguments with great suspicion.

The environmental factor is the one that made me send the letter. I have read & heard that jet ski engines are more polluting than a standard motorboat engine - Jamaica Bay is a fragile environment - the islands & marshes are known to be shrinking fast - I don't particularly like the idea of singling out jet skis to be banned but if, as a class, they are the most polluting type of motor vessel...well, o.k...

still conflicted between the gut preference to NOT fall into the business of restricting recreational boats by class when that argument's been used against us so much - but also can't quite shrug my shoulders & go "Oh well" -

In an ideal world all the people in the marinas bordering the bay would suddenly be overwhelmed by environmental consciousness & trade in their motorboats for electric launches, canoes, kayaks, sailboats, rowboats...

wouldn't it be nice?

bonnie said...

of course I must not forget that the people in the marinas bordering the bay - notably the Broad Channel folks - were some of the first people to really bring attention to the shrinking marshes. They were out there using and watching the bay all along - they knew something was wrong long before the scientists confirmed it.

bonnie said...

Long story's a tough issue, balancing recreational use with environmental protection, isn't it?

pcastagner said...

well, this one is settled law. And for good reason. It's an anti proliferation measure. Boats are not all that better, but they are traditional by now. You can't fight our culture. Jetskis, however, are not at all traditional and so we can target them. Basically the idea is to discourage new fossil burning ways to move around into tighter and tighter spaces. Boats are prohibitively expensive for most, so that is a deterrent as well.

why not limit by class if it is done sensibly? Encouraging human powered recreational vehicles/craft in national parks is just smart policy.