Jet skis are already restricted to the western stretch of Elk Lake and now a new movement from locals is looking to keep them off of Elk and Beaver lakes completely.
Sharon Glynn is a regular visitor to Elk Lake and lives just a 10-minute walk up the road. Over the past five years she’s learned that the majority of fellow lake users she talks to are not happy with the presence of jet skis on Elk Lake.
After dozens of consultations with locals, Glynn presented a proposal to ban jet skis at the CRD board meeting on Sept. 21 and it was well received.
The board voted to explore the topic, said CRD director Mike Hicks of the Juan de Fuca electoral area. Hicks is concerned with the response from some CRD directors who were interested in exploring an all-out ban on gas powered motors in regional lakes. Operation of vessels on the water is overseen by Transport Canada, but the CRD can make recommendations to them.
“We asked our staff to contact [Transport Canada] to see if there’s anything we can do about [jet skis],” Hicks says. “We don’t know if we can do anything yet.”
This isn’t the first time motor boats or jet skis have come before CRD. In 2008 there was a discussion about banning gas powered motors from local lakes. That led to a dialogue with Transport Canada, but nothing came of it, said Coun. Judy Brownoff, who was a CRD director then and still is.
Saanich actually has a noise bylaw that targets jet skis on Prospect Lake, but no other lake. The bylaw, which Brownoff remembers enacting, explicitly prohibits noise by personal water craft, another term for jet skis.
“Council believes that the noises produced by the operation of personal water craft on Prospect Lake are objectionable and liable to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of individuals and members of the public in the vicinity of Prospect Lake,” reads the bylaw.
There are restrictions elsewhere in the region, with Durrance, Matheson and Thetis among the most notable. They permit electric engines only.
Only Thetis can compare with the number of users that Elk and Beaver Lake Regional Park have. The latter receives an estimated 1.4 million visits annually and hosts national and provincial rowing regattas, provincial triathlon championships, the Saanich Strawberry Festival, a fishing derby, and an estimated 14,000 visits by fishing anglers. The number of annual jet skiers on the lake is unknown but is likely under 100.
Saanich residents Heather Smith and Joanne Moller are regular swimmers at Elk Lake, preferring the small beach in the northwest corner. It’s accessible off Brookleigh Road, just west of the boat launch. It’s popular for being removed from the Pat Bay Highway.
They have choice words for jet skiers which can be politely summed up as ‘not in Elk Lake, thanks.’
Glynn is clear that she doesn’t actually have a problem with the motorboats, which are often pulling water skis and inner tubes. Rather, it’s the jet skis that are inconsistent with the usage of the lake, she says.
“For the last five years I’ve been a frequent user and enjoyer of the lake, and what I observed is the many types of people enjoying the lake. Runners, swimmers, motor-boaters, water-skiers, and jet skis, and it’s the the jet skis that bother people.”
Glynn says it’s the high pitch and irritating noise the jet skis make, which is partly based on the behaviour of jet skis as they travel at high speeds. Glynn was supported at the CRD presentation by members of the Victoria Golden Rod and Reels Club and B.C. Wildlife Federation. Others have shown support, including rowers, though the Victoria City Rowing Club did not endorse the proposal as a club.
Many will be hesitant to endorse a proposal, Hicks says, as long as there is confusion about whether banning jet skis means banning gas-powered motorboats.
“The rowing teams use motors, the fishers use motors, and I have a suspicion that jet skis may be considered a vessel the same as a motorboat,” Hicks says. “In that case, there’s nothing anyone can do.”
Hicks said he would not vote to ban gasoline outboards on that lake because it’s already restricted to a certain area. He doesn’t see how the rowing club, which can have upwards of 200 rowers on the water in a day, or the fishing derby, which has 500 people, can exist safely without gas-powered motorboats.
“The problem is you can’t ban a gas-powered motor when there’s nothing to replace it,” he says. “The rowers are way too fast to expect an electric motor to keep up with them.”