Township adopts lake access ordinance

By Ken Francis

The Clearwater Township Board last week adopted an ordinance regulating the use of the Nixon Lake public access. The 3-0 vote came after a brief discussion between members of the board and some residents who were present at the monthly meeting last Tuesday. Over the past two months the board has been working to resolve maintenance, noise and vandalism issues at the public access. In June, the board agreed to have the access checked for garbage twice a week and have the grass mowed as necessary. They also agreed to look into an ordinance that would limit the hours people could use the access as well as establish the types of vehicles and behavior that could take place there. Last week, the board reviewed each section of the ordinance. The first section was a legal description of the Nixon Lake access area. Resident John Notsch asked whether the ordinance would also cover other lake accesses. “Can you put an ordinance on just one lake?” he asked. Supervisor Dan Mol said the township attorney and the DNR said it could be done that way. He said the township only had two other lakes and Nixon Lake was the only one with that type of access. “Nixon (Lake) is the only beach we have,” he said. “It wouldn’t apply to other accesses. It singles out Nixon Lake.” Mol asked the other supervisors if the ordinance should include anything about boats spreading invasive species. Supervisor Dave Nelson said the township didn’t have to because that is covered under DNR regulations “You could do that, but it’s already a law in the books,” he said. Supervisor Bruce Sobotta said the ordinance looked fine as it was presented. “I think it’s a good start. I don’t think it’s overbearing,” he said. “And it addresses a lot of the issues that were brought up.” Nelson said he liked the ordinance as is, but asked what would happen if other concerns came up later at the lake access. “What’s the procedure then?” he asked. Township Clerk Jean Just said the ordinance would have to be amended and the board would have to vote on it again. She said there is no need for a public hearing. But the new ordinance would have to be posted. Sharon Lee asked about bonfires, which was one of the concerns raised by Bill Lee, who lives next to the access. “I don’t see anything in here about that at all,” she said. “That’s been a problem down there. They’ve been setting up campfires right in the middle of the parking lot.” Section five prohibited camping, but did not mention campfires. Mol suggested adding the words, “or open campfires” to the section. That would stop bonfires but would still allow people who wanted to bring a grill for cooking on the beach. Sobotta said that addition should cover bonfires without restricting cooking. He said that’s the way it is during a burning ban. “When you have a fire restriction you can still have a fire to cook,” he said. The board also discussed section three, which prevents non-motorized vehicles. They agreed that even though ATVs were a problem, only those that were licensed would be allowed. The ordinance also restricts parking at the access between three hours after sundown and the time of the next sunrise. That could be a problem if someone was there early to go fishing. Jean Just said the attorney felt law enforcement would be able to determine whether someone was there legitimately. “The police can define whether or not it’s justified for them to be down there,” she said. “If somebody is out there fishing, the deputy can allow them to stay there.” After a brief discussion regarding dogs on leashes, the board agreed not to include it in the ordinance. Sobotta said it would be difficult to enforce and he didn’t think it was necessary. “We could put every little thing in there, but then you’re getting to be too much of a nanny,” he said. “There’s got to be common courtesy involved.” The board approved the ordinance with addition of the “no open campfire” language. It goes into effect immediately.


MEMBERS OF THE BIG LAKE HIGH SCHOOL CHAMBER CHOIR performed for the school board at the beginning of their last meeting. The Chamber Choir members are selected for their skills from among their peers. They were directed by Mary Ebanks. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

DARLENE LANZ grew up just east of town and has lived in or around Big Lake all her life. She recalls what Christmas was like in Big Lake back then. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

SHERBURNE COUNTY ATTORNEY Kathleen Heaney, taking over as MCAA President. (Submitted photo.)

Cheryl Turck and Corey Mabis of the Sherburne County Probation Dept. (Photo by Ken Francis.)

SANTA AND HIS HELPERS prepared to give out toys to 111 families at the Food Shelf Monday. The toys were all donated by one local merchant. (Photo by Ken Francis.)