Ski enthusiasts rocked the boat Wednesday night at a state Department of Natural Resources hearing on plans to govern the Magothy River.
Several hundred skiers, many coming from as far as Towson and St. Mary's County, and waterfront residents crammed into the Magothy River Middle School auditorium to air their views on proposed restrictions.
Typically, the skiers and residents found themselves at odds.
Skiers objected that the 6 mph boating speed limit recommended by theMagothy River Vessel Management Plan would prohibit water skiing on most of the 30 creeks and coves. Skiers say they need to go 18 mph orfaster.
The only areas left open to skiing, they said, are eithertoo small to maneuver their power boats or are exposed to other boattraffic and therefore unsafe.
Ed Nichols drove down from his Elkton home in Cecil County to tell officials that, as the state's riversbecome more congested with boat traffic, skiers need more room, not less.
Skiers asked officials from the DNR's Boating Administrationto reconsider the restricted speeds on Eagle Cove near Gibson Islandand the upper reaches of the Little Magothy River. The plan recommends a limit on both, citing them as popular anchoring and swimming spots.
Several ski clubs also pressed officials to reconsider creating a "controlled" ski area on Cornfield Creek. A "controlled" ski areawould be used by a single, low-wake ski boat at a time and monitoredby the clubs.
Groups of Cornfield Creek residents, however, praised the plan for extending the existing 6-mph limit on weekends throughout the week. Since they asked the state to impose the weekend restrictions in 1987, aquatic grasses and other signs of ecological healthhave begun to return to the creek.
"We live on the creek, we use the creek, we like the serenity of the creek," resident Thomas Wolfe said. "We're sympathetic to the skiers' need for a place to go, but we don't want them on our creek. We wish them luck in finding some other place."
Jody Roessler, chief Boating Administration planner, said a narrow boat channel, a community marina at the creek's mouth anda community boat ramp on the east side made even a regulated ski course impractical on Cornfield.
Michael Christianson, president of the Magothy River Association, which represents 30 communities, said he expects the speed limits throughout the river will save lives.
"The problem is we have too many people and too many boats out there,"he said. "And I'm not one to play games with people's lives."
Sen. Philip Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, who represents the Magothy's northern shore, also endorsed the department's recommendations. But, he added, "I do sympathize with the skiers who feel they have been squeezedout of the river."
Jimeno, a member of a legislative panel that will review the restrictions, said he would support additional ski areas on the South and Severn rivers. The South River already has an approved slalom course and ski jump; the Severn has two approved slalom courses, though operating hours are severely limited.
The Boating Administration will accept written comments on the plan until Nov. 19. DNR Secretary Torrey Brown could approve the plan as early as Nov. 26, sending it to a legislative review panel in December.
The restrictions, if approved, could go into effect April 15.