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Confusion over boating rules at Eagle Creek

Posted at 8:17 PM, Jul 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-02 15:34:58-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Some boaters say the city of Indianapolis is suddenly interpreting the rules at Eagle Creek Reservoir differently, after 40 years. Boaters say it is keeping boats out of the water and on dry land.

"They would not allow us on the lake Thursday," Jerry Cooper, a fisherman, said. "The park ranger said if I put my boat on the lake, they would arrest me and confiscate my boat and trailer."

Boaters say for several decades they've been allowed to take their boats with large motors of more than ten horsepower into Eagle Creek as long as they didn't turn them on, and instead used a smaller, less powerful engine. That rule is on books and is posted around the waterway.

Brian Waldman, a longtime fisherman, says the way that rule is being interpreted has recently changed. It's possibly due to boats with large engines taking advantage and going too fast. Waldman says when he first heard of the new crackdown, he wanted to comply, so he spent nearly $2,000 on a new smaller engine. But even after his efforts, park rangers turned him away.

"When I showed up at the ramp with my six-horse this year, I was told, because I also have a 40-horse on my boat, that I can't even get on with the kicker horse," Waldman said. "And needless to say I wasn't very happy and neither are my friends after spending that kind of money."

In a statement, the Department of Resources said:

Given Indy Parks’ current interpretation of the municipal code at Eagle Creek, DNR will be taking a look at how this issue impacts anglers’ ability to utilize the reservoir. In order to be good stewards of the resource, as well as the revenue generated from fishing licenses, angler participation rates are a consideration when planning future stocking efforts.”

Indy Parks didn't address the direct concerns of the boaters; however, they did cite a city ordinance banning boats equipped with engines larger than ten-horse power from entering Eagle Creek.

"Eagle Creek Park and Eagle Creek Reservoir offer beautiful natural spaces for the Indianapolis community and visitors to explore. Since the late 1970s, Ordinance 341-204 has restricted motorboats with motors exceeding 10-horsepower or any boat exceeding 26-feet in length or smaller than 8-feet in length from operating on the Reservoir. The ordinance attempts to reduce issues with high speed levels in areas where more passive use and lower speed recreation occurs.

In the last few years, our team has worked with park visitors to make sure the ordinance guidelines are not only being followed, but also to ensure that we answer questions about speed limits on the reservoir. From sailboats and kayaks to fishing and other recreational uses, we want Eagle Creek Reservoir to be a space for all residents to enjoy."

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