JASON DUNOVANT, The Roanoke Times
The Tri-County Lakes Administrative Commission’s Wake Education Task Force recently marked its first year at Smith Mountain Lake. The group has led an effort to encourage boaters participating in towed watersports to be more courteous on the water.
“I think we’ve made some huge strides this year,” said Joy Manning, the task force’s secretary.
Stemming from a community effort to curb the bad behavior of some wakesurfers on Smith Mountain Lake, the task force was created to educate the public on the best practices when participating in watersports that can create wakes. Their materials, which can now be found at several locations around the lake, ask boaters to stay away from docks and shorelines, minimize repetitive passes, avoid coves and congested areas and avoid driving unpredictably and erratically.
The material has been placed at marinas, boat service locations, boat rental locations and even at rental homes in an effort to reach as many people as possible. Manning said the task force is still looking for places where they can get their message out.
In addition to flyers with a list of best practices for towed watersports, they have also placed QR Code at businesses and other lake locations. When scanned by a smart phone, the QR Code directs people to the task force’s website that provides materials on safe boating as well as a map of the best locations on the lake for towed watersports.
The map of Smith Mountain Lake has areas of the shoreline displayed as green (safe for towed watersports), yellow (use caution) and red (towed watersports not recommended). Many of the areas marked as red are narrow coves and congested areas around the lake.
Manning and other members of the task force have also manned booths at several lake events over the summer to speak with the community about their efforts. They have passed out materials as well as boat key floaties, life jacket whistles and kill switch armbands with the QR Code.
For many members of the task force, including Manning herself, the decision to join was due to increased efforts to curb wakesurfing on Smith Mountain Lake with legislation and proposed no-wakesurfing zones. She said the task force, if successful, can prevent any future efforts to curb wakesurfing and other towed watersports.
TLAC has postponed any additional efforts to create no-wakesurfing zones at Smith Mountain Lake to give the task force time to get their message across to the community. TLAC Chairman Lorie Smith said she is pleased with what she has seen from the task force so far.
“They have far surpassed my expectations to date,” Smith said.
Previous efforts to educate the public on wake courtesy had little impact on the community. Smith is optimistic this renewed effort by the Wake Education Task Force will be able to reach more people and have better results.
The public may not be able to notice any reduction in bad behavior overnight though. Smith said this campaign is going to take time.
“I think we will gradually see incremental change,” Smith said.
At TLAC’s October meeting, Smith and other board members praised the work done by the task force in its first year. Smith remarked on the work done on a minimal budget of $10,000 provided by TLAC and the Smith Mountain Lake Association, much of it still unused.
“To echo the chair’s comments, it is amazing what the team accomplished in one year as a volunteer committee,” said Chris Whitlow, Franklin County Administrator and TLAC board member. “Marketing strategies utilized were very well developed. Excellent work.”
Manning said planning is already underway for the start of next year’s boating season on Smith Mountain Lake. The task force hopes to attend additional lake events as well as hold their own educational events and even look at ways to provide some hands-on training on the best wakesurfing and towed watersports practices for safety and courtesy.
“We just want to get out more in the public,” Manning said.
More information on the Wake Education Task Force can be found on the TLAC website at tricountylakes.org.
Jason Dunovant (540) 981-3507