While many parts of the country are grappling with intense drought, Minnesota has had so much water that no-wake restrictions were placed on Lake Minnetonka nearly two months ago and have devastated boat businesses there.
Restrictions were lifted Friday, something one marina owner likened to lifting a race flag that would send boaters scrambling to resume using personal watercraft, wakeboarding, waterskiing and boating as usual.
However, wake restrictions will still be in place for boaters in smaller bays and within 600 feet of the shoreline —a rule that will remain in place until the lake levels continue to recede to 930 feet above sea level for three days. Thursday’s lake level was measured at 930.22 feet.
The restrictions have hampered lake businesses from marinas to shoreline restaurants on one of Minnesota’s busiest lakes.
“There’s so much pent-up up demand and emotions,”Tom Jacob, owner of Bay to Bay Boat Club in Excelsior, told the Star Tribune. “Everybody’s been chomping at the bit to go.”
For boaters and lake businesses, the lifting of the entire lake rule, put in place June 5, was much anticipated.
“It’s like starting the summer over again,”said Ken Pittel, who owns Bay Rentals in Mound. “Hopefully business will come in now.”
From shoreline restaurants and bars, to rental businesses, gas stations and boat repair companies, a long chain of businesses have suffered.
In Minnetonka, the city-operated Grays Bay Marina has sold gas to boaters at an all-time low, 33 percent below average. By this time, the marina usually has sold more than 1,500 gallons per week at least five times during the season, but that hasn’t happened yet this year.
Pittel’s jet ski shop in Mound was forced to close up early and cut staff after losing 99 percent of his business.
At Greenwood Marina, owner Aaron Bean has been closely watching the water levels drop from a nail in his dock. Gas sales are down 60 percent, and business has dropped not just from the restrictions, but the rainy weather and late ice-out that preceded it.
“2013-2014 is a really forgettable year so far,”Bean said. “All we’ve gotten is rain and restrictions.”
While water levels are receding, some worry it’s coming too late for people to bother bringing out boats this late in the season. But with summer quickly slipping away, Pittel hopes people will still soak up as much of the last six weekends before Labor Day as possible.