By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor
New York State golf courses can open, marinas can operate, and recreational boating is now officially allowed, after New York’s Empire State Development altered its rules Saturday.
Many restrictions still apply.
Airway Meadows Golf Club in Gansevoort opened on Saturday, said Joan Heber, who owns and operates the course with her husband James. She said it has been “very challenging and exhausting.” Golfers must call ahead to reserve a tee time, and pay ahead with a credit card. No golf carts are used, and golfers may not enter the clubhouse.
“It’s all about social distancing, and we totally respect that, but people need to get out of their houses and breathe.”
“People are wanting boats early this year, because they can’t do anything” else, George Pensel of Boats By George told The Chronicle Monday.
“I got a call from a regular customer telling me he wants his boat [this week]. I don’t know how fast we can ramp up.”
Mr. Pensel said they expected to open their marina on Cleverdale on Wednesday, April 22.
“I have 600 boats in storage plus I have a hundred new and used boats to deliver.” He estimates they can prep 100 boats in a week, so getting them all ready for use is a “six to eight week process.”
While boating and marinas got a green light with restrictions Saturday, the language expressly prohibited boat rentals or charters.
Empire State Development, the state agency empowered to decide what activities are essential, authorized “Marinas, boatyards, and recreational marine manufacturers, for ongoing marina operations and boat repair/maintenance, where such facilities adhere to strict social distancing and sanitization protocols.”
It added, “Use of such sites for the purposes of personal use or operation of boats or other watercraft is permissible, provided that no establishment offer chartered watercraft services or rentals.
“Restaurant activity at such sites are limited to take-out or delivery only.”
“I’m excited we’re allowed to open,” Scott Andersen at F.R. Smith Marina in Bolton Landing, told The Chronicle Monday. He expected to open “in a week or so.”
But Mr. Andersen sounds a note of caution, too. “We’re doing our best to protect our employees. We’re trying to minimize personal contact,” he said.
He said they’ll want customers to phone ahead and “leave the boat at the top of the hill and we’ll take care of it.”
Mr. Andersen said the state’s prohibition on boat rentals — at least currently — will impact F.R. Smith. “It’s a very, very large part” of their business, he said.
Mr. Andersen is also a board member of the Bolton Local Development Corporation that operates Norowal Marina in Bolton.
Norowal offers launching service for day users as well as seasonal dock rentals.
“Our dock customers — our season rentals — is sold out as it usually is,” said Mr. Andersen, which he said goes a long way to paying Norowal’s bills.
“I think Norowal will do fine,” he said.
“People will want to get away — a day out on the lake with their immediate family probably from the same household.”
As for boat sales, he says, “We can sell boats, but we can’t have people coming in the showroom. Believe it or not I had two calls today.”
“Yes, we are allowed to open,” said Mr. Pensel of Boats By George. “We are not allowed to open up our showroom.”
As to sales, he said, “We have sold quite a few boats. We had a very good month of March. We sold some 30-footers, a pontoon, a 25-foot Cobalt.”
He said due to cancellation of the Great Upstate Boat Show at the end of March “we have probably slipped back in five or six deals,” but on the other hand, “Digital sales are too easy to do now.”
Mr. Pensel said he remains wary of coronavirus. “We we were so close to killing it. We just need to keep the course….Too many people thought it was a hoax.”
Lake George Association executive director Walt Lender said New York, New Jersey and Connecticut jointly announced the new rules on boat use and marinas.
He said “the state has removed the temporary suspension on the use of boat launches for recreation…In addition, the state has now deemed marinas essential businesses, meaning they can operate as long as they follow strict social distancing guidelines.”
Mr. Lender added, “It is critically important to the health of Lake George that boaters ensure they are not spreading invasive species,” all the more now because state boat inspections won’t begin until June 1.
What about docks at NY’s LG picnic islands?
The Chronicle inquired of the Department of Environmental Conservation:
• With boat use approved, will DEC be installing docks at Lake George picnic sites and campsites? Has that process begun? If not, when will it begin?
• Will picnicking and/or camping be allowed at public sites on Lake George and other Adirondack sites?
The answers we received by press-time Tuesday were incomplete.
DEC said: “Other than the boat launches at DEC campgrounds remaining closed until the campgrounds open, DEC intends to open boat launches shortly after ice has left the waters the boat launches provide access to.
“Docks were installed at the Lake George Boat Launch. The Mossy Point Boat Launch is open though docks have not yet been installed. The Hearthstone Boat Launch will not open until the campground opens.”
Reserve America, the website that handles camping reservations at state sites on Lake George, says, “To reduce potential community spread of COVID-19, all campgrounds, cabins, and cottages are closed to overnight visitation through April 30….
“New York State has suspended all new camping, cabin and cottage reservations for the 2020 season until further notice…If you’ve made a reservation for the season beginning May 1, and we determine your campground is safe to open, your reservation will be honored.
“However, visitors who wish to cancel an existing reservation may do so and receive a full refund. Thank you for your patience as we work to protect the safety of our visitors and staff.”
No word as far as picnic facilities.
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