Popular Lake Connector to See Major Boating Change

Mar 4, 2021

Credit Town of Minocqua

Boaters will no longer be able to speed through a half-mile section of the river channel that connects Lake Minocqua to Tomahawk Lake, following Minocqua town board action Tuesday.

On a 3-1 vote, with supervisor John Thompson dissenting, the board approved a motion by supervisor Sue Heil to mark Minocqua’s entire portion of the channel slow-no wake. The part that is in Woodruff Township was already slow-no wake, as was most of Minocqua’s portion.

“I think if you surveyed the entire population of Minocqua, it would strongly be in favor of this,” said town chairman Mark Hartzheim.

The channel – known as the thoroughfare – sees heavy boat traffic on Friday afternoons and weekends. But about a half mile that’s in Minocqua is not marked as slow-no wake and many take full advantage of it, coming up on plane and speeding through it.

At an earlier meeting, Hartzheim said making the entire channel slow-no wake would add about 5 1/2 minutes of travel time between the two lakes.

He lamented the change in the character of the chain in recent years. He cited the increased volume of boats, as well as larger vessels, including pontoons with twin 300 horsepower outboard motors, and wake boats “that are creating a different style of wake.”

“You create a situation where there really is no sanctuary on this chain anymore,” the town chairman said. “There's really nowhere you can go (on the six lakes) to really guarantee yourself being away from either noise, nuisance, waves, high traffic. This thoroughfare channel becomes this sanctuary. It’s a scenic drive from one end to the other.”

Thompson pressed Hartzheim for his reasons for advocating the change. Thompson said the police department logged only five calls last summer from boaters in the channel, of which three or four being for broken down boats. “You have virtually no incidents, but yet you are trying to make this huge change,” he said.

Thompson said the 39 people who registered in support of the measure “don’t trump everything else.” He noted there are over a thousand property owners on the lake.

Supervisor Bill Stengl had seconded Heil’s motion, but had misgivings. “Ninety-nine percent of the time there’s no problem” with boat traffic in the channel, he said. But he also acknowledged the increased boat traffic and the failure of many boat operators to practice boat safety rules.                                   

“I think everybody recognizes there are safety issues at certain times of the day in there,” Stengl said before his vote. “This is probably the only tool we have to increase safety through that channel, unfortunately.”

The town put more money into its boat patrol budget this year, with an eye on tamping down reckless behavior on the water. They won’t have to look far.

“Everyone goes like a NASCAR race coming out of the channel,” Thompson said.

Other board actions

In an unrelated action, the board approved a recommendation from public work director Mark Pertile to award a contract to Coleman Engineering surveying services for mapping and monumenting of Old Highway 70, Dr. Pink Drive and S. Morgan Road.

Coleman Engineering’s quote of $28,700, plus $300 for additional meetings, was the lowest of four quotes received. Work on the road is anticipated for 2023, Pertile said.

The board approved the chairman’s re-appointments of Ron Mundt to the Bear Lake Protection & Rehabilitation District, and that of Tom Church and Mary Taylor to the plan commission.