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No-wake Lake Nighthorse petition draws 1,200 signatures

Durango City Council agrees to weigh speed limit request

A petition aimed at preventing wakes on Lake Nighthorse was presented to the Durango City Council on Monday.

Rose Chilcoat, with the Quiet Lake Nighthorse Coalition, delivered about 1,200 signatures supporting a 5 mph speed limit on the lake to the councilors.

“Many of us do not wish to have a typical state park on our doorstep ... We believe lake Nighthorse could be a quiet, no-wake mecca,” she said.

Of the 1,200 people who signed the petition, 65 percent live in the city, 29 percent live in La Plata County and 6 percent live elsewhere, she said.

The city will manage recreation at the lake when it opens, and several of the councilors seemed open to exploring the petition’s request. The board plans to hold a study session to explore the issue further.

“I would like to explore how flexible the city of Durango can be, not only on this issue but other issues moving forward,” Councilor Dean Brookie said.

The lake is not likely to open until next spring or summer, so the councilors have ample time to evaluate the information Chilcoat presented, he said.

The petition calls for a 5 mph speed limit for motorized boats to ensure a peaceful sanctuary where visitors could fish, canoe, kayak, paddleboard, sail and swim. The speed limit would comply with a requirement to allow motorized boats on the lake, the petition states.

Excise taxes on fuel for motorboats helped fund the grant that paid for the boat ramp and other improvements, which requires that motorized boats be allowed on the lake.

The city could apply for a waiver from the motor boat requirement because the state attached the motorized boating requirement to the federal funds, Chilcoat said.

However, it is not the coalition’s intent to slow down or stop the opening of Lake Nighthorse, she said.

Lake Nighthorse cannot be opened until the city and the Bureau of Reclamation sign an annexation agreement. The city also plans to build an overflow parking lot and put in a boat dock before opening, Parks and Rec Manager Cathy Metz said.

The city plans to manage some of the areas of the lake as no-wake areas, including the swim beach, the inlet, the dam, the west end of the lake and around the shoreline.

The petition addresses the center of lake, an area about 2 miles long, where motorboats would be allowed to go up to 40 mph, according to the city’s conceptual master plan.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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