Juanita Bay: Is it for the birds, park-lovers, party boaters or people who live along its shores? All of them will have a stake in strict new marine regulations city staff will propose to the Kirkland City Council on Tuesday.
The issue is the large concentration of boaters who gather virtually every warm summer day on Lake Washington at Juanita Bay, often tying up together, or “rafting,” playing loud music, partying and drinking.
“It’s had an impact on homeowners who live along the bay, as well as on people utilizing the waterfront parks,” says Lt. John Ashlip of the Kirkland Police Department, who is helping formulate the new ordinance with the city attorney’s office. “At times there are 150 boats in different shapes and forms, sometimes mixing alcohol and partying and playing loud music.”
The proposed ordinance would prohibit “three or more” boats from tying up together and “public disturbance noise” on the water from engines, horns, sirens, audio systems audible at distances “greater than 50 feet” and “yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing, particularly between sunset and sunrise...”
At a City Council meeting in January, two members of the Kirkland-based Eastside Audubon chapter, testified that the noise, boats and sometimes litter have an impact on birds and other wildlife that nest and feed at , a city designated wildlife sanctuary. Former city council member and longtime parks advocate Nona Ganz said the concentration of boats is unsafe, noisy, polluting and disturbs not only wildlife, but also residents who live on the bay. She said regulations to prohibit such concentrations would make the bay “safer, quieter and better for people and wildlife.”
But many Kirkland residents are already speaking against the new regulations, arguing they are too strict, would prohibit perfectly legitimate activities by law-abiding boaters and limit Kirkland's attraction as a waterfront destination.
“I am a boater in Kirkland and sometimes Juanita Bay, and I also live on Juanita Bay, and I hear the noise,” says Janis Rabuchin, an avid water skier who spoke out against the proposal on her blog, Kirkland Weblog. “People do complain about it and I do find it annoying.
“But no rafting at all? Sometimes three or four of our friends all tie up. We’re all responsible adults. We’re not having a crazy party, we just want to be together.”
Rabuchin says although a few boaters do dangerous and intrusive things, most just want to have a good time on the water, and that boating is a healthy activity that should be encouraged.
“We want people to come to Kirkland and boat and be happy. What if I want to sing or whistle on my boat? Who’s to say I shouldn’t do that? And I’m not a 16-year-old. We still want to go boating and have fun.”
Lt. Ashlip noted that an important aspect of the proposal would be for an education campaign on how boaters can enjoy the water safely and not impact others. For example, signs would be posted at boat launches, marina and parks.
“We just want to give the city some tools,” he said. “A lot of it is education and more visible enforcement. Most of the time these are people out having a good time and enjoying the beautiful lake.”
The Kirkland Police Department does not have full on-the-water capability, so enforcement is and would continue to be by the King County Marine Patrol, which stations a patrol boat at the .
The City Council meets at City Hall Tuesday, beginning with its usual study session at 6 p.m. and the regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. For details, see the council agenda here and the attached PDF file on the proposed ordinance.