Tri-County Lakes Administrative Commission

The Tri-County Lakes Administrative Commission is making a renewed push to curb bad behavior on Smith Mountain Lake with a new education effort slated for this summer.

Signs, flyers and QR Codes are expected to begin popping up around the lake in the next few months urging boaters, specifically wakesurfers and those involved in other towed watersports, to watch their wakes. Maps will also be provided to let people know what areas of the lake are safe for towed watersports.

Renewed education proposals were unveiled by Smith Mountain Lake’s Wake Education Task Force at TLAC’s bi-monthly meeting on Tuesday. Chairman Josh McClure led the presentation providing several strategies to reach boaters this summer.

“’Are you boating safely?’ is one of our key messages,” McClure said.

The effort comes as Virginia’s annual Recreational Boating Incident Summary found that Smith Mountain Lake once again saw the most boating incidents of any body of water in Virginia last year. The state Department of Wildlife Resources said there were 21 boating incidents on the lake in 2022, including 11 with injuries. There have been two fatalities so far this year.

TLAC created the Wake Education Task Force last year following a public hearing to recommend Smith Mountain Lake’s first no-wakesurfing zone near Merriman Run. Lake residents spoke up at the meeting asking TLAC to try educating the public about the problem before going down the road of banning activities, several of those speakers later joined the task force.

Wakesurfing has been an ongoing topic of debate among Smith Mountain Lake residents as the sport has grown in popularity over the past decade. Boats specifically designed for wakesurfing create large wakes that riders are able to surf on. Those wakes created by boats can sometimes be several feet high and can be a danger to other boaters as well as damaging to docks.

Boats in general have also gotten larger in recent years, which has also created more wake concerns on the lake.

While the no-wakesurfing zone was recommended by TLAC following the public hearing last year, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources ultimately denied the request. TLAC also voted to suspend any new applications by residents for no-wakesurfing zones last year citing the need for a stronger push to educate the public.

Jason Dunovant 721-4675 MONETA