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“That’s a little radical.” River boathouse owners alarmed by proposed rules

Mitch Reynolds

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Plenty of wary boathouse owners in and around La Crosse.

Proposed license agreement updates for the iconic river boathouses have not been well received in that community.

In some ways, the new rules for boathouse owners in La Crosse from the city’s parks department don’t come as that big of a surprise. Not for long-time boathouse owner Jerry Every, who says he’s watched the city’s park board slowly take control of previously privately held property.

“They’ve taken over Myrick Park, of course, and the golf course,” Every said. “And they’ve taken over the west side boat club up there. And now, they’ve taken over the Municipal Boat Harbor.”

Lawmakers and regulators have a history of targeting the iconic river shanties, pushing for rules that would lead to their eventual elimination.

Now, the proposed license agreement — part of a heated hearing in La Crosse’s city hall last week — seems to promise more of the same. Every says some requirements aren’t all bad

“You know we’ve got to be really careful with how much of this stuff we start letting these people take over,” he said.

Every admits that some of the new proposals are reasonable, but others step well over the line of private property rights.

The license agreement, among other things, allows the city to board and inspect the boathouses with 24 hours notice, has steep new insurance requirements and calls for annual license fees of $500 for residents and $1,000 for non-residents.

“When you get the things like giving a 24-hour notice that (thugs) would come and they’re allowed in your boathouse, that’s a little radical,” Every said.

The city is apparently getting pushed by the Wisconsin DNR to more stringently enforce rules related to boathouses, which state laws actually define as “fixed houseboats.”