Did you ever use the boat launch at Allan Yorke Park and wonder why there is a palm tree and plaque there? The plaque says, “Your memory will never die. With love from survivors and friends.”
It was placed there in loving memory of Bonney Lake resident Ronald Scott who died Sept. 29, 2008, after his 18-foot Bayliner was struck by a boat driven by Neil Larsen about 10:30 p.m. Two women aboard Scott’s boat suffered major injuries in the accident, which occurred near Interlake Island. There have been other horrendous accidents on the lake in recent years involving boats running up on land at the causeway and jet ski accidents were people were severely injured or killed.
There have also been teak surfing deaths. Teak surfing is when floaters hold on to the back of a moving boat. Carbon monoxide poisoning (CO) from boat exhaust causes poisoning include irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness. It is a colorless, odorless killer. The exhaust produced by recreational boats stays close to the water, accumulating under the boat’s swim platform and in enclosed cabins. It can cause swimmers to faint, and if they are not wearing a life jacket, they simply slip under the water and drown.
There are two Marine Services Units (MSU) on the lake; one run by Pierce County at the north end of Lake Tapps. Bonney Lake Police Department Marine Services Unit operates in the Church Lake portion of the lake (southern portion in the Bonney Lake city limits. The BLPD MSU is an assignment staffed on peak use days on the lake. According to boat launch bollard records presented by Jim Bouchard, Park Board chair at the April 16 council workshop, at Allan Yorke Park, a peak day is when there are 50-67 boats launching per day. These peak days are usually weekends that are warm and sunny. An average day is 17-30 launches per day. BLPD monitors the weather forecast and schedules MSU officers accordingly.
When I was on the council, I got a chance to do a ride along with the MSU. First thing I asked for was a life jacket. Did I mention I can’t swim? That boat goes fast! I noticed that just the presence of the MSU on the lake seems to slow everyone down. There were spot checks of personal watercraft and boats to make sure they had all the essentials required by law. I asked the question, how does someone who is in distress on the lake know how to report their location? Hmmm. That was a good question. I was on the public safety committee at the time. I did some research and found there were some other large lakes in the country that put house numbers on the lakeside of their homes. American Lake has a dock numbering system. The idea was kicked around a bit before I left the city council in 2011.
I was pleased to hear from John McDonald, East Pierce Fire and Rescue deputy fire chief at a recent public safety committee meeting that the dock numbering program is coming along. GIS maps have been created and 1300-1400 parcels along the lake are being numbered. Cascade Water Alliance, Pierce County Sheriff and BLPD are on board. Watch for future promotion of this important program. It is anticipated the metal signs will be brown and white and large enough to read from a distance and reflective for night use. Minutes count.
Being on a lake, disoriented due to illness or accident only adds to the confusion of “Where am I?” How this program will work is you call 911, give the dispatcher the dock number of the nearest dock so either the county or BLPD MSU can get to you quickly. First responders on the shore can coordinate the dock number with the street address for land response. I hope many lakeside residents will participate in this program when it is implemented.
At this same public safety meeting, Police Chief Dana Powers shared that part of the program for the water safety is kids teaching and helping kids. The program is called “Swim Safe.” Ann Cook of Sumner School District has worked on the curriculum that includes having the MSU at the elementary schools. Chief Powers also reported that an emergency phone is in the process of being installed at Allan Yorke Park to report incidents quickly. She emphasized the biggest problem in the lake is hypothermia. There are new signs at Allan Yorke warning about that.
At the April Park Board meeting Public Works Director Dan Grigsby reported there will be new parking lot stripes at the Moriarty addition of Allan Yorke for boat trailer parking and vehicles only parking at Ball Field 4 lot. That lot is also slated for chip sealing. Warning stripes will be placed in front of the boat launch on West Tapps Highway to warn about vehicles launching boats. Signs will be added to aid boats queuing up to launch boats to not block parking lot entrances on Bonney Lake Blvd. The speed limit in the vicinity of all parks in the city is 20 mph. Please observe it and watch for pedestrians!
Did you know that if you are age 50 or younger and you are operating a watercraft of 15 horsepower or greater you must have a boater safety card? The Washington State Mandatory Boating Safety Education Law went into effect on January 1, 2008. The law requires boaters to pass a boating safety course or an equivalency exam. You can get more information about that and just about anything you want to know about boating in and around Bonney Lake on the boating page on the city of Bonney Lake website.
Information about boat launches, lake water levels, Cascade Water Alliance, parking and annual passes. Boating regulations are also available in Bonney Lake Municipal Code Chapter 16.16 and there is a downloadable pamphlet. For more information on watercraft regulations and boating safety, please contact the BLPD Marine Service Unit at (253) 863-2218.
Boat launch fees will be going up according to discussion at the April 16 council workshop. Check the boating page for details on rates and obtaining passes.
At that same meeting Mayor Neil Johnson stated that Cascade Water Alliance has been a good partner with the city in many ways. Swim Safe and dock numbering are two of those good things discussed these past two weeks in this column.
In summation, if we educate ourselves on boater regulations, follow the rules of the road around parks and boat launches, hopefully we will all enjoy a safe summer both on and off the lake. My wish is that there will be no drownings or boating accidents on the lake in 2013.
Have fun! Be safe!