The Springs Citizens Advisory Committee plans to ask the East Hampton Town Board to reconsider allowing jet skiers to launch their watercraft from Gann Road and other points around town in order to give them easier access to the bays.
The idea was originally proposed by Martin Drew and his brother Eric, who are avid jet skiers. Eric Drew said he is a disabled veteran with back, knee and tendon problems and that launching his jet ski from the bay beaches is difficult.
“It comes down to a basic safety issue,” Mr. Drew said. “It is unsafe to launch any watercraft off the beach. It causes personal injury and property damage and it’s not safe to the swimmers.”
Mr. Drew said jet skiers need to have access from the bay to the harbor in case there is inclement weather or a need to fill up on gas, especially.
Currently the law prohibits people from operating jet skis in Three Mile Harbor or in any marked channel in the Town of East Hampton, including access points at Northwest Creek, Accabonac, Hog Creek and Napeague, according to Ed Michels, the town’s chief harbormaster. But wherever a jet skier can access the bay from a beach, launching is permitted.
Mr. Michels said the ban was put in place because years ago, when jet skis first came out, they were loud, unstable and could really only go fast. Now, they’ve been designed to be more stable, quieter and can go within the speed restrictions in Three Mile Harbor that boats have to follow, which is 5 mph for the first 500 feet.
Mr. Michels said Harbor Patrol wouldn’t likely have an issue with jet skis using Gann Road specifically to get to the bay, saying it would be the same as access for boats. He said swimmers’ safety is not a concern in that area. CAC member Ira Barocas agreed, saying the safety component to the ban is no longer relevant.
“There’s no difference because jet skis are closer to the water and much more at eye level,” Mr. Barocas said. “[Jet skiers] are concerned about themselves so they’re much more attentive than other people on a 16-foot runabout, where the guy is doing something or going fishing.”
But CAC member Brad Loewen said he doesn’t support allowing jet skis at Gann Road because it’s already very busy at that marina and launching ramp. He said adding to the congestion there in the summers especially would be dangerous.
“I’m not arguing that we should not allow jet skis to be used properly in East Hampton Town waters, I am arguing that there are many instances where these uses are not allowed in certain places because they’d interfere or be dangerous or inappropriate,” he said. “Gann Road is not where it should be. It’s the only industrial site in Springs and it’s heavily used by commercial and recreational boaters. There’s no facilities, no toilet facilities. It’s an industrial site. It won’t take the abuse and overuse.”
But other members of the CAC and audience members in attendance seemed to be in favor of asking the town to open up other launch sites to jet skis to lessen the impact on Gann Road.
“It would be an unfortunate position for the town to take in terms of the Gann Road dock, that that particular use be prohibited simply because of traffic. A boat is a boat is a boat,” Mr. Barocas said. “If citizens have the right to launch boats from town property, why should this particular class of boat be prohibited?”
The CAC voted to ask the Town Board to think about allowing boaters to launch personal watercraft at town launching ramps solely to access the bay.