Boat registrations on Lake George are rebounding, according to the latest study on recreation in Lake George.
After a 20-year high of boat registrations in 2002, the number of boats registered with the Lake George Park Commission was on a steady decline, hitting a 10-year low in 2014. Then last summer the figure rebounded to a 10-year high at 16,458 annual and temporary registrations. The figure for annual boat registrations (10,785) alone last year also marked a 10-year high after hitting a 10-year low in 2013. Those figures are still trailing the 20-year highs in boat registrations recorded in 2002.
“Statewide, boat registrations are way down — more so than Lake George,” said The LA Group Senior Planner Tracey Clothier at the Lake George Park Commission board meeting Tuesday.
Clothier presented some findings of the 2015 Recreation Study to the commissioners. The final report will be available in the coming weeks.
“Boating is a luxury, right? They respond typically to the national economy,” Clothier said. “Now we have an improving economy and we really have low gas prices and that, I think, is significantly going to impact the number of boats that want to be at Lake George this summer.”
The new study will update the 2005 Recreation Study, providing insight into public perception and guiding the park commission on decisions regarding reduction of congestion and safety hazards, long-term lake protection initiatives and other concerns.
For example, boat rentals are a rising trend.
Motor boat rentals and seasonal berth slips account for most of the new boats on the lake in the past 10 years. In the past 10 years there were 90 new boats on the lake. Rental boats generate four to five times the traffic a boat with a single owner generates, Clothier said.
New demand in rental dock slips could result in an increase of Class B marinas that are typically at residential docks where a person could rent out a dock slip, Clothier said.
The study found the commission needs better data on Class B Marinas, the type that offer docking or mooring to anyone other than the owner or immediate family and offer services such as boat rentals, which are a growing trend.
They found Class B marinas were reported at only 10 to 15 percent.
“That’s something the park commission is going to work very hard on this summer to get better data,” Clothier said.
Another national trend — wider boat beams — is already resulting in more permits for marina boat slip expansions, she said. One out of five docks went out for a permit for modifications. Boat lifts and articulating docks that are movable to get away from the ice are also trending.
The study found lakewide carrying capacity at about 15 acres per boat last year, slightly more than 2005 when it was 12 acre per boat because there were more boats.
The recommended standard boat density is six to 13 acres per boat. In the study, the recommendations is that the commission look to maintain 13 acres per boat, Clothier said.
The area below the Sagamore to Huddle Bay is much more congested than that, at about 2.5 acres per boat. The study also included build-out scenarios of potential future increases.
Boat counts were done with a fleet of volunteers and a helicopter flyover on July 5. Boats counted during peak use totaled 1,939, about 500 less than 2005 when the last study was conducted.
Boat registrations are one of the user fees the Lake George Park Commission depends on to fund its budget. The commissioners on Tuesday also requested the state Legislature increase the boat and dock registrations for 2017. Fees are set by state lawmakers, not the commission. Boater traffic comes almost equally from private properties (41 percent) and marinas, resorts and retail boats (40 percent). The rest (19 percent) comes from the public boat launches. A majority (68 percent) of boater distribution was in the southern part of the lake, which was no surprise, while the northern and middle parts of the lake appear to be under capacity on peak days, Clothier said.
The study was funded by the Lake George Association and the Lake George Park Commission. The LGA board of directors approved a motion in 2014 to fund half of the cost of the study, up to $25,000. The park commission authorized a contract with The LA Group and the Siena Research Institute — to conduct a perception survey as part of the study — at a cost not to exceed $50,000.
Follow Amanda May Metzger on Twitter @AmandaWhistle and read her blog at poststar.com/blogs.
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