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Crystal Lake Park District approves new lakebed ordinance with 6-1 vote

Eric Anderson of Crystal Lake discusses the Crystal Lake shoreline, which the Crystal Lake Parks District is trying to regulate on May 17 in Crystal Lake.
Eric Anderson of Crystal Lake discusses the Crystal Lake shoreline, which the Crystal Lake Parks District is trying to regulate on May 17 in Crystal Lake.

The Crystal Lake Park District voted, 6-1, Thursday to approve new rules regarding 94% of lakebed property owned by the park district.

Officials have said the additions to the ordinance are considered “administrative” and residents should not see much of a change.

Voting against the amended ordinance was Commissioner Jason Heisler, who has lived his whole life on the lake. Where as park district officials say the amended ordinance should clarify rules, Heisler said they do not.

“The majority of property owners don’t want the ordinance,” Heisler said. “They couldn’t see the need for it, it’s never been a problem. So why fix something that is not broken?”

Park Board President Debbie Gallagher said, however, it was important to clarify lakebed rules.

“I think it is important for the park board to protect the lake into the future,” she said.

Specifically, the amendments formally state that only members of the homeowners’ associations who have lakefront property and residents who live on the 230-acre lake – with property that includes a portion of the lake bed owned by the park district – have permission to place piers, moorings, swim rafts and boat lifts into the lake.

Park district officials have said residents have long put such belongings into the lake, but the amended ordinance will make all guidelines formal and easy to follow, especially for new residents.

Without the amended ordinance, it would appear items currently in the lakebed are there in violation of park district rules, Crystal Lake Park District Executive Director Jason Herbster explained.

Officials worked over the past year to amend the ordinance. The process has included the village of Lakewood, which along with the city of Crystal Lake also has jurisdiction over a part of the lake.

The amended ordinance will go into effect after officials receive a baseline for what already exists in the lakebed, which should happen sometime this week, Gallagher said. Once that baseline is determined, any personal items on the lakebed may continue to exist and may be maintained in the same general condition into the future, according to the adopted ordinance.

The new ordinance also clarifies that the park district is not liable for any personal property.

The park district is pursuing the formation of a lake advisory committee. Its purpose would be to research, share concerns and make recommendations regarding the lake. Heisler said the committee should have been formed before amending the ordinance.

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