Swimming and fishing could soon be officially prohibited at Marietta's city-owned boat docks as members of city council consider developing legislation to regulate the use of docking facilities.
"I've asked (fellow council members) to get their thoughts together and recommend regulations they would like to see for all of the city docks," said Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, who chairs council's lands, buildings and parks committee.
He said mixed use of the dock space is not a good thing, and swimming could be a major liability issue.
"And fishing line and hooks can get caught in boat props," Noland said. "We have to be concerned with safety first."
The city owns four docks, including the concrete structure on the Ohio River just below the municipal parking lot at the Lafayette Hotel near Front and Greene streets; the Marietta Harbor docks on the Muskingum River near Post and Butler streets and behind the National Guard Armory building; the new Harmar boat docks; and the boat docks and ramp at Indian Acres Park.
Ron King, manager of the Marietta Harbor facilities that are leased and operated by WASCO, Inc., said swimming is not allowed at the harbor docks, but fishing is currently not a problem.
To provide input about regulations on Marietta's city dock space, contact members of council's lands, buildings and parks committee:
Harley Noland, chairman- 376-9820.
"There's no swimming simply because of the boat traffic," he said. "But a lot of people do fish from the harbor docks. People always ask if they can fish here and we say it's OK, but boats always have the right of way."
Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, said he would be more concerned about swimming than fishing from city docks.
"People have been fishing from the docks near the Ohio River levee since they were put in," he said. "But swimming is not a good idea. There are mooring lines and boat propellers in the water, as well as fishing line and lures."
McCauley said allowing swimmers on the section of Marietta Harbor docks that are rented out to boaters each season could present a security issue for the boat owners.
He added that signage should be placed at all city docks requiring children under the age of 10 to wear life vests while on the docks.
Marietta resident Brian Karcher was fishing with friends Jason Grady and Clay Springer on the city's concrete docks on the Ohio River Wednesday afternoon.
"I've lived here for 36 years, and have been fishing for 30 of those years," Karcher said. "We fish here two or three times a month. People shouldn't be able to swim here, but fishing is a different issue."
Springer said prohibiting fishing from city docks seems like a silly idea.
"We all come down and fish-it's a good time," he said. "Fishing is just part of life along the river."
Councilman Michael Mullen, I-at large, said making rules for city dock use should be a matter of common sense.
"And I would hope that common sense governs the use of the city's docking facilities," he said. "There are obvious things the city should do from a liability standpoint, and we'll rely on the city law director to research that and see what other cities do."
Mullen said while the public docks have been built primarily with boaters in mind, they should also provide citizens with access to the rivers.
Fellow councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, said he's not sure he would vote for an ordinance regulating city docks.
"The only phone call I've received about this issue was from a constituent who asked why in the world we would want to regulate dock use," he said. "He's watched lots of people on the new Harmar docks and said people are using it, why prevent them from doing that?"
Vukovic said his main concern is how the dock regulations would be enforced, noting that city police could not keep constant watch on the facilities.
"If we can't enforce it, why enact the legislation?" he asked. "I wouldn't support it unless I could be shown who would provide the enforcement."
All of the city's boat docks have been built with funding from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft. And the Harmar docks received 100 percent funding from ODNR.
The agency does not regulate the city's docking facilities per se, but there are some basic rules pertaining to use of the watercraft division-funded docks, according to Julie McQuade, grant administrator for ODNR's Division of Watercraft.
She said ODNR allows neither fishing nor swimming from its docks.
"Fishing is not allowed because these docks are funded by boating fees," McQuade explained. "That's a conflict of use for the facilities which are primarily built for boaters, not for fishing."
Swimming has obvious liability issues, but fishing also presents safety problems, she said.
"At various docking facilities we've seen fishing line, hooks, and other equipment that could be dangerous for boaters or children walking along the docks," McQuade said.
She said local police would have to be involved in enforcement, but also suggested the city put up signs indicating violators of dock rules would be fined.