CHESTER -- The town is inching toward a mandatory boat inspection and washing station of its own on Loon Lake, and it could be fully operational by July 4.
Chester has for years stationed town-funded stewards at its public launch on the 581-acre lake, after Eurasian milfoil took hold more than a decade ago.
The delivery of a $19,500 boat washing station is expected in the coming days, and this year’s stewards have been trained by Paul Smith’s College staff to identify invasive species.
The Town Board came within inches Tuesday night of gating the town’s launch, to bar any trailered boats from entering or leaving the lake when the launch isn’t staffed.
“To make this effective, we have to do it,” Councilman Mike Packer said of the proposal to gate the town launch and change the locks when stewards aren’t present.
The Lake George Park Commission and state Department of Environmental Conservation have for 18 months been discussing a mandatory program for the much larger and more popular Lake George. Lake George — with 100 launch sites and boat ramps owned by the state, local municipalities, and private people — poses substantially more difficulties to lock down than Loon Lake.
Boaters can only launch at the town ramp or at the one private marina on Loon Lake.
The Town Board backed away from voting on the proposal to close the launch after local residents said could leave boaters stranded on the lake.
Stewards are only scheduled at the town launch from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
That means someone on the lake on a weekday after 2 p.m. could be stranded there, unable to remove their boat, if the launch site is closed.
“I hate to go in this direction, but on the other hand, we can’t afford not to do it,” said Supervisor Fred Monroe, whose town has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting milfoil. “If it becomes an issue, we can talk about having stewards there for more hours.”
Transient boats from neighboring lakes with other ecology-shifting invasive species would be the target of the crackdown. Town officials added that Chester has a responsibility to its neighbors to be sure that boats leaving Loon Lake are free of milfoil, so it is not brought to other, uninfected lakes.
The town has historically sold keys to the gate at the Loon Lake launch to local homeowners. Those keys wouldn’t fit the new locks, under the plan.
“If you really wanted to protect Adirondack waterbodies, you would have mandatory inspections as soon as you come into the park,” Monroe said.
Pre-dawn anglers with trailered boats are likely to be the most affected if the Town Board moves forward with its plan. It’s unlikely the town would post stewards at the launch in the early hours of the morning.
The Town Board opted Tuesday night to hold off on locking down the launch, so local officials could first sit down with the private marina owner and see if he would be willing to gate his launch after-hours.
The Town Board hopes to act on the proposal at a special meeting prior to the busy July 4th holiday.