Safety concerns mounting as commercial docks expand at Portage Lakes

Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 8:49 PM EDT
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PORTAGE LAKES, Ohio (WOIO) - Residents along the shores of the Portage Lakes are expressing growing concern over commercial docks being placed in the water, putting swimmers and boaters at risk.

"Suddenly you're putting people in danger that are just here to have a nice day swimming," said Rob Savage, who lives along the shores of Rex Lake. "Quite frankly, it's a safety issue. We don't want to see anyone hurt on the lakes."

He and others tell 19 News that the commercial docks are now stretching well into the lake from the shore, right beside a camp for children with special needs, cutting into a popular swimming reservoir.

Because swimming isn’t allowed in all areas of the lakes, the reservoir often fills up with families, including young children.

Additionally, residents say the already crowded and narrow channels are becoming increasingly congested.

Most neighbors are under the impression that only marinas are allowed to operate commercial docks.

Shoreline residents can also have them, for an annual fee of $65.

But now, contractors have been swooping in and paying private parties to put docks in.

In turn, the contractors are renting the docks for upwards of $1,000 each.

“Right now it’s not clear as to what can exist, what should exist, or what new development could exist,” Savage said, noting the need for more dialogue with state officials.

In a statement to 19 News, the Northeast District Parks Manager of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Parks and Watercraft Doug Lyons wrote:

“DNR has seen an increase in boat traffic in every lake across Ohio and our officers are working hard to patrol these waterways and promote safe boating. We understand the concerns regarding commercial docks on public lakes and are carefully considering the related issues before approving any additional commercial dock construction at Portage Lakes.”

The belief is the state is still getting dock fees, but the contractors are reaping the financial rewards.

But the issue, neighbors say, is far beyond money or even privacy.

“It has nothing to do with stopping people from enjoying the lakes. The concern is, we don’t want something bad to happen because of overgrowth if you will,” Savage said.

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