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Park board unanimously agrees to lease but harbor users are worried

Brad Williams



For the last few months, regular meetings of the La Crosse park board have often seemed more like neighborhood meetings for municipal harbor residents.

Renters of harbor slips were back before the park board Thursday night with questions about a lease agreement, the city’s park board approved and could take effect after the harbor is renovated.

Back in November, a new boat harbor design presented by the city park board was welcomed by many users. Now, they’re not as happy. While the agreement maintained fees that were set in 2015, other terms have slipholders concerned. 

The board unanimously approved a fee structure and conditions to lease a slip. Those fees will have a public hearing Feb. 1 before a La Crosse city council vote Feb. 8.

Slip fees would range between $700-$2,100 for May 1- Oct. 31, depending on size. Nonresidents would cost 10 percent more.

Under that proposal, users could also lose some regular services. Renter Tracy LaFleur said too many changes could force some boat owners to move out of the harbor.

“If we’re losing all the services but we still have to pay the same amount of money, maybe we just drop our boat in manually which is a pain in the rear,” LaFleur said. “Take it out for the weekend but then we miss out on our neighborhood that we’ve come to know and love.”

Dennis Smalley has been a spokesman for the boat owners. He was bothered by a provision that would let city workers enter boats any time for legitimate business purposes.

“I wanna know what legitimate business purpose the city has to board my boat?” Smalley said at the meeting. “It’s like my house in town.”

Steve Carlyon, the parks director, said he would take it to the city attorney.

“I don’t know the answer, but let us find out what’s going on,” Carlyon said. “Some of it will be based in code, some of it will be based in city ordinances and some of it will be based in law and we don’t know that.”

Mike Berger, one of the liveaboards — someone who lives at the harbor year round — thinks the new rules may be too restrictive and wasn’t happy about the extra $700 fee for liveaboards.

“It makes us feel like criminals,” Berger said. “Like we’re doing something wrong. I don’t get it. We’re the best thing that harbor can have.”

Other renters attending Thursday’s park board meeting were unhappy that the proposed agreement doesn’t guarantee services they’ve had in the past, like restrooms or gasoline service.

The park board also heard harbor renters speak out against the notion of charging property taxes on their boats.



A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.