How officials devised their plan to halt it permanently
By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
Shortly after the tragic boating death of 8-year-old Charlotte McCue in the hours after Log Bay Day last July 25, authorities were already discussing how to end once and for all the rowdy annual gathering on Lake George on the last Monday of July.
“This was not a knee-jerk reaction. It was an eight-month process,” Lake George Park Commission executive director Dave Wick told The Chronicle.
It involved officials from Warren and Washington Counties and local towns, the state Departments of Environmental Conservation and Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Park Commission. It addressed both water and land access to Shelving Rock Bay, where Log Bay Day has taken place.
“We all realized,” said Mr. Wick, “that Log Bay Day had gone on too long and was difficult to control” and that “the after-effects are more difficult” yet.
Consensus arose, he said, that “Enough is enough — we are simply not having another Log Bay Day.”
Convened in August 2016
In late August, a meeting took place in Warren County Sheriff Bud York’s office. Attending were Park Commission staff and commissioners,
Sheriff York and members of his marine staff, Department of Environmental Conservation regional director Bob Stegemann and other DEC staff, and Park Commission attorney Eileen Haynes.
“We talked about the history of the event and its challenges, including the young man who was paralyzed from the neck down last year after he dove off a boat,” Mr. Wick said.
Park Commission Director of Enforcement Lt. Joe Johns gave a summary of the 2016 Log Bay Day. He said 27 law enforcement officers on 17 boats were on duty, and that “approximately 800 people and 250 vessels” were in Shelving Rock Bay.
Lt. Johns said there was one arrest for boating while intoxicated, six medical evacuations, five fights broken up and four swimmer rescues.
Discussion centered around regulating the number of boats in the bay — either through a DEC permitting process using regatta permits, or perhaps by installing mooring balls that would limit how many boats would be allowed to access the bay.
Mr. Wick said, “DEC determined that regatta permits were not viable in this situation.” And Park Commission staff wasn’t keen on installing mooring balls, in part because they were “concerned about public backlash about a regulatory over-reach.
“No other day has issues, and there is no other problem in this bay except for Log Bay Day, so we went back and forth on that. It was an honest discussion.”
Shelving Rock Bay is shallow, calm and very popular with boaters — “a perfect place,” said Mr. Wick, “for a few boats to get together and not bother anyone. So we all decided to just deal with the day.
“We wanted to address Log Bay Day while not over-regulating a bay that had no other issues during the other 364 days of the year.
“So we were unanimous against the use or mooring balls, and decided we would just address the day, and not take an action that could affect tourism.
“It was our job to look at the options we had available to control it or eliminate it altogether, and the consensus was we needed to find ways to eliminate the day.”
Park Commission has the authority
Before the next meeting in November, Mr. Wick said Ms. Haynes, the LGPC’s legal counsel, researched the extent of the Park Commission’s authority.
“She sought the advice of attorneys from several state agencies who all said the Park Commission has the authority to close down the bay for public safety,” he said.
“So she presented her case that we can shut down the bay.” Mr. Wick and law enforcement met again in April to discuss “the logistics of how it will work.”
He said, “We will ring Shelving Rock Bay and Log Bay with boats with lights flashing, and personnel on those boats will inform boaters that the bays are not accessible, and suggesting that law enforcement personnel will be all over the lake ensuring the public’s safety.”
Limiting number of vehicles on road
But Mr. Wick said the task force realized that water access to the bay was only part of the challenge. Shelving Rock Bay is also accessible by road on shore. As Mr. Wick puts it, “But what about upland?”
The Town of Fort Ann had been contemplating restrictions and in spring enacted a local law prohibiting parking along Shelving Rock Road.
Working with the Department of Environmental Conservation, Fort Ann public works crews built a new parking area on DEC-managed Forest Preserve lands, and fixed up eight existing parking areas.
“Together, the nine parking areas will provide parking for 92 vehicles,” DEC said in a May 17 press release.
Mr. Wick said, “That gave us more structure to the parking situation, and cars will be turned away once those lots reach capacity. I applaud the Town of Fort Ann and Supervisor Richie Moore for taking action pro-actively and without anyone asking them.”
On what had been Log Bay Day, Mr. Wick said the regulations will “significantly limit the amount of cars on Shelving Rock Road, and the two bays will be closed down to boat traffic while an unprecedented number of law enforcement boats and personnel will be patrolling the lake. There will be boats all over the lake looking for ‘splinter’ parties.
“There will also be boating while intoxicated patrols and check points that afternoon and evening, and the Park Commission controls the major launch points on the lake and our people will be letting the public know about the changes on that day.”
Mr. Wick said on July 25, one year to the day after last year’s Log Bay Day, the Lake George Park Commission will meet and “empower our law enforcement agents to close down the bays and not allow access by boat” on the following Monday, July 31. (Log Bay Day was traditionally held on the last Monday in July).
Expect it will be a years-long effort
Mr. Wick said, “We will continue to enforce it for several years. This is not inexpensive for police, but we have to do it.”
Mr. Wick said then-Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan and Glens Falls Ward 3 Warren County Supervisor Claudia Braymer spearheaded a “Responsible Boating” initiative that will include a video produced by Look TV’s Jesse Jackson, and posters, Mr. Wick said.
“We also want to make servers at restaurants and bars around the lake aware of the signs to look for, and hope to hold TIPS [Training for Intervention Procedures] training for them sometime this summer.”
Hours after last year’s Log Bay Day, Alexander West was piloting a boat in the dark that struck a boat in which Charlotte McCue was riding, killing her. In May Mr. West was convicted of second degree manslaughter and other charges and was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in state prison.
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