Crystal Lake Park District Looking at Piers

Through a hard fought court suit, the Crystal Lake Park District established that it owns most of the bottom of Crystal Lake.

It seems that one of my photos of just installed boat piers may have stimulated discussion concerning park district liability, not to mention other questions about piers, rafts and buoys that rest on that park district property.

Not that the Gate 9 pier you see above is new, but the park district doesn’t have an inventory of what rests on its lake bottom.

When folks noticed that more boats were at the Gate 3 pier, they thought it was new this year. Some research revealed that the Country Club Property Owners Association expanded to the east of the old pier last year.

I talked to park district Executive Director Kirk Reimer. He was concerned about liability. That seems like a reasonable concern. I doubt owners of piers, rafts and buoys have park district taxpayers protected by their insurance policies.

The park board began discussion of the subject at its last meeting and it seems likely to be on the May 15th agenda as well.

“It seems that every year there are more boats moored on the lake,” Reimer observed. “The board is looking at who’s doing what.

“Right now someone could pop a marina in there.”

I’m not sure that is the case, since a commercial establishment would require zoning from Lakewood or Crystal Lake. The chance is zero that Lakewood would allow a business on a lake lot and I think the last commercial establishment on the North Shore was a bar that is now a home site.

There was a bar on the North Shore when we moved here in 1958. I came back from some early morning West End fishing and found a dead guy washed up at the Main Beach boat ramp. He apparently fell out of a row boat owned by the guy with the park district concession on the way back from the bar where the two were drinking. The concessionaire didn’t realized his buddy was missing. I believe the lot now has a home on it.

In any event, regulation of the use of the lake bottom is now in play.

Reimer mentioned one of the topics could be length and size of piers.

“There needs to be some kind of a permitting process,” he told me.

This spring the park board has been publicly chaffing at its lack of vote on the Lake Management Committee. Park Board President Mike Zellman made the pitch to the Crystal Lake Council.

For a decade of so, regulation of use of the lake has been governed by an intergovernmental agreement between the Village of Lakewood and the City of Crystal Lake.

Most on the Crystal Lake City Council saw no problem with adding the park board, but the Lakewood Village Board apparently thought there was no reason to give up the power it now has to protect its South Shore constituents’ rights to use their five beaches and the lake surface, where police power is exerted by the two municipalities.

Most of Crystal Lake is actually located within the boundaries Village of Lakewood, as you can see from the above map. You can see that most of the lake that can be used for water skiing or tubing is within the boundaries of Lakewood.

Lakewood now polices the lake.

This makes logistical sense since the Lakewood Village Hall is on the lake front next to West Beach.

There have been complaints, however, that the patrol issued only warning tickets last year. Surely, some of the offenses were worthy of a citation, the argument goes.

Lakewood residents foresee a 2-1 vote situation where the control is by the two other governments, the vast majority of whose residents never use the lake. They remember the multi-decade effort by park board members to ban power boats from Crystal Lake.

When it became obvious during last August’s flooding that boat wakes were harming lake front property, especially on the North Shore, it was the park district that took the initiative to ask the Crystal Lake City Council and the Lakewood Village Board to issue a “no wake” rule.

Reimer pointed out that the park district got the complaints, but had no power to remedy the problem.

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CCAPOA’s Gate 9 pier can be seen on top. Gate 3’s pier is seen empty right after installation in 2008 and full during the flooding in August 2007. I’m told the
concrete structures in the foreground were part of the ice house operation. Below is Crystal Lake Park Board President Mike Zellman urging the Crystal Lake City Council to talk about adding the park district to the Joint Lake Management Committee. Below is a map of Crystal Lake, the lake, showing only the northernmost and eastern section right in front of the Main Beach actually being in the City of Crystal Lake. At the bottom are pictures of the Lakewood Village Hall and the patrol boat on one of the days last August when Crystal Lake was so high. All pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them. The bottom picture was taken May 6, 2008, the day the temperature was over 80 degrees. The boat and skier are in front of the Main Beach Park nearer than not to the outlet.

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