Sheriffs stand in way of ‘No Wake’ zone in Hastings

Posted 3/24/21

Compromise would allow requiring slower speeds at times of high water, city will continue gathering data by John McLoone The fight for a “No Wake” zone in Hastings is meeting roadblocks in the …

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Sheriffs stand in way of ‘No Wake’ zone in Hastings


Compromise would allow requiring slower speeds at times of high water, city will continue gathering data

by John McLoone

The fight for a “No Wake” zone in Hastings is meeting roadblocks in the form of the Dakota and Washington County Sheriffs, but the two have offered a compromise.

After a lengthy discussion at last Monday night’s Hastings City Council meeting, councilmembers were told that Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry would allow the “No Wake” zone during times of high water only and that was after two days of negotiation on the matter between the two sheriff’s departments, which would be charged with enforcement and slowing boat traffic.

The meeting started with two residents pleading with the council for the “No Wake” designation in Hastings.

Tom Day talked about the famous scene in the movie “Caddyshack” where Rodney Dangerfield swamps other boaters and people on shore.

“That Happens in Hastings most every day during boating season,” he said. “I’ve seen children and elderly people being knocked off a dock by a violent wave.”

He pointed out that most cities in the area have such zones where boat speed is restricted. He said it would also be good for business for boats to be able to dock downtown without fear of being damaged by waves.

“While public safety is the reason many of these zones are established, the education of wakes in these areas also has benefits for the waterfront property owners and the environment,” said Day. “There’s a great untapped potential of boating tourism dollars motoring past Hastings to other communities with safer docks. Once boaters start to use the Hastings dock as the entry to downtown Hastings the financial impact is limitless.”

Matthew Francis lives on First Street on the River and he asked council members to take a look at the damage to the shoreline caused by waves from speeding boats.

“I would really like to invite all of the council people over to my house to see the actual damage that is done in one year from the river,” he said. “I would invite the city council, and you’ll see what having wakes and not having a “No Wake’ zone has done to our property.”

Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik attended the meeting and delivered the news from the two sheriffs that documentation doesn’t See NO WAKE Page 9

Dakota County commissioner Mike Slavik (bottom row) met with the Hastings City Council last week.

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exist that the situation has been dangerous.

He said that Starry especially opposes the no wake designation. Slavik read a communication from Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie: “The Washington County Sheriff’s Office continues to have concerns. In order to form a compromise to this situation, I spoke at length to Washington County Sheriff Starry. He has cities along the St. Croix waterway seeking no wake restrictions. He has no intention of granting them for reasons unique to the county and its river way,” Leslie wrote. “I agree with Sheriff Starry’s position. However, the circumstances in Dakota County are also unique. One, I would require additional staffing to enforce a “No Wake” zone in Hastings.

“After discussing it with Sheriff Starry, we agreed to a “No Wake” zone during high water.”

Slavik pointed out the compromise is a start.

“Your efforts tonight moved the ball forward a lot faster. As of yesterday, the sheriff wasn’t prepared to do anything,” said Slavik. “This really takes effort by the county board of Washington and Dakota County to do anything. Quite frankly, you don’t have the support of the sheriffs who enforce the waterways.”

“I don’t know if this compromise will work or if it will be acceptable and you as elected official can choose to move forward,” said Slavik. “We’ve had a good partnership, the City of Hastings, Dakota County and the sheriff’s office. We want to continue to have that.”

He noted that Sheriff Leslie found evidence of no calls to 911 on the issue.

“We don’t have any documented evidence. We have hearsay and stories,” he said. “When you see something that doesn’t feel right, you need to call 911. We need some documented scenarios. That’s the only way you’re going to get a full no wake.”

Councilmember Lori Braucks said that shoreline erosion certainly proves the problem.

“What level of evidence is enough?” she asked, noting that property owners and the city itself has plenty of proof of erosion.

“That might be a more appropriate question for the sheriff,” he said.

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City of Hastings Police Chief Bryan Schafer said that while calls may not go through 911, they do come into the Hastings Police Department and he relays that information to the county.

Councilmember Lisa Leifeld said, “I would like this as something we continue to do our research on and get more data. There are a lot of missing pieces here. None of us sitting here are experts on this.”

With shoreline damage endangering city infrastructure, she said, “I would be concerned we’d be looking at something bigger if we don’t start taking some measures now.”

Councilmember Tina Folch brought up the fact that since there’s no speed limit, there wouldn’t be calls.

“There is no speed limit on the river from the dam down to Prescott. There’s no law being broken,” she said. “Hence there’s no data that would be within the law enforcement database.”

She said the city does have documentation of erosion that can be provided.

“We do have documents. It is causing structural damage to our infrastructure,” she said. “I was shocked. You can just see the evidence. The river specifically from the wake is causing such damage. This isn’t rocket science. This is plain common sense.

“It has an impact. Boats can’t dock down there. Big cruisers that go by super fast can knock ether boat around. Ride your bike to Prescott. That place is loaded with boaters who have stopped as tourists are using downtown. It’s really an economic disadvantage to our downtown because people can’t stop at the dock and enjoy our downtown.”

Councilmember Mark Vaughn said that pressure needs to be put on the Minnesota DNR, which has told the city it’s up to the counties.

“I think that’s our approach,” he said.

City staff will continue to gather data on the problem and report back to the council’s Public Safety Committee when prepared.