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Council approves no-wake zone for Bennett’s Creek

A small section of Bennett’s Creek near Parkside and The Retreat at Bennetts Creek is one step closer to getting a no-wake zone following a unanimous vote from City Council.

The no-wake zone application will now be prepared by city staff and sent to the Department of Wildlife Resources for its consideration. If approved, the no-wake zone would be set up, and all costs associated with marking its boundaries to be paid for by Jason Moore, who applied for it.

No wake is defined by the DWR “as the slowest possible speed required to maintain steerage and headway.”

The proposed no-wake zone would be located on Bennett’s Creek directly south of the Route 17 bridge and is about 725 feet wide, with marsh land adjacent to it. it would connect two existing no-wake zones on the creek. There are developments in that area on both sides of the creek, and a boat driving in the middle of it, according to Robert Lewis, assistant public works director, is “over a football field away from either shore.”

City staff found that the creek widens “significantly” in the proposed no-wake zone, there is a private dock and gazebo with private moorings and the density of water structures is low.

“Vessels traveling at speeds capable of producing a wake have ample room to steer clear of the dock and gazebo, leaving ample distance for a wake to dissipate,” according to the staff report.

Suffolk Police Marine Patrol and Public Works staff recommended denial of the application due to the lack of density, the sufficient width of the waterway, the shallowness of the channel and “the lack of reported or noted issues.”

Public Works staff would also recommend additional signage on private docks and structures to remind boaters to stay at least 50 feet away from docks and piers.

During a public hearing at council’s Sept. 2 meeting, Moore said the proposed no-wake zone in the .31 mile stretch would enhance public safety and help prevent property damage. He said the creek has become more popular for small and non-motorized crafts such as kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. At the same time, he said, the traffic of power boats and personal watercraft has also increased.

Moore said there are about 80 to 100 passes of boats along that section of the creek daily that come from Bennetts Creek Park. Many of those boats head to larger bodies of water such as the James or Nansemond rivers, and many boaters disregard the 50-foot buffer, Moore said.

Randy McReynolds, a board member at The Retreat at Bennetts Creek, said there are kayak and jet ski launches there.

“I saw the width you guys are accounting for, 750 (feet) from bank to bank,” McReynolds said. “What I’d be curious is what the width is from pier to pier, which would be a lot narrower.”

Council members agreed with the speakers on the issues on the creek.

“I think it’s at a point where the expense for the people along that waterway,” said Councilman Roger Fawcett, “is going to get astronomical as their frontage keeps continuously washing out.”

He said the choice is to either slow things down in that area, or have kayakers and other boaters in danger.

Said Fawcett: “It’s just a disaster waiting to happen.”