U.S. Park Service sets Jet Ski rules for national park system

By John Heilprin The Associated Press
Thursday April 18, 2002

WASHINGTON — Personal watercraft such as Jet Skis will be permanently banned at three national seashores and two national recreation areas beginning next week, the National Park Service said Tuesday. 

The decision to close the five sites to the motorized watercraft followed a lengthy review and extensive public comments, said Deputy Director Randy Jones. 

Eight other areas in the national park system will be temporarily closed to the watercraft Monday but could be reopened if the individual parks should adopt rules for their use. 

That leaves eight park system areas open to the high-speed motorized craft this summer, except for temporary closures beginning Sept. 15. 

Additionally, Jones said, sites where personal watercraft are allowed can restrict them to certain areas. 

The eight areas open to watercraft were granted extensions this summer under a court-approved settlement a year ago with Bluewater Network. The San Francisco-based environmental group sued to ban the watercraft throughout the federal parks system. Sixty-six water bodies overseen by the National Park Service earlier were declared off-limits to the watercraft. 

Personal watercraft are high-speed, gas-powered vessels, usually less than 16 feet in length, operated from a sitting, standing or kneeling position. They are commonly known as wet bikes or by their trademarks such as Jet Ski, Wave Runner or SeaDoo. 

Still open to personal watercraft this summer are Amistad National Recreation Area, Texas; Curecanti National Recreation Area, Colorado; Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma; Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Montana and Wyoming; Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada and Arizona; Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Texas; Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah and Arizona; and Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Washington. 

The five sites where personal watercraft are scheduled to banned permanently on Monday are Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts; Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Pennsylvania and New Jersey; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana; Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia; and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, California. 

The eight being made off-limits temporarily are Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia; Big Thicket National Park, Texas; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan; Fire Island National Seashore, New York; Gateway National Recreation Area, New York and New Jersey; Gulf Islands National Seashore, Mississippi and Florida; Padre Island National Seashore, Texas; and Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina. 

But environmentalists said Tuesday they worried the Park Service might ease up at three national seashores — Gulf Islands, Padre Island and Cape Lookout — because it is now requiring superintendents in those three areas to reconsider their recommendations last year that watercraft should be banned. The areas had been on the list for permanent closures Monday. 

A hearing on a watercraft industry suit challenging the ban is scheduled for Wednesday before U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey in Victoria, Texas. The suit alleges the Park Service arbitrarily discriminated against a class of park users, personal watercraft users. 

Environmentalists have argued that personal watercraft damage the landscape and wildlife and create risks to public safety risk. 

The House Resources Committee approved a bill to postpone the prohibition until December 2004, but the Senate has not taken up the legislation. 


On the Net: National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov 

Personal Watercraft Industry Association: http://www.pwia.org 

Bluewater Network: http://www.bluewaternetwork.org