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Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Final sail nears

By Janie Southard

Some local residents took to the air over Labor Day weekend in what could be one. . .

Those who have been longing to parasail on Grand Lake should take to the air soon because a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruling will likely end the sport locally. State park officials say if you already have a permit, use it because no further permits for parasailing will be issued.
"We have learned of an FAA law that prohibits any activities involving moored balloons, kites and so forth, which seems to include parasails, within 5 miles of an airport," Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Manager Craig Morton said Tuesday afternoon.
The two airports impacting Grand Lake are Lakefield Airport near Montezuma and the seaplane landing zone in the lake.
Morton explained the seaplane zone is a 1-mile strip running approximately between the state campgrounds and Kozy Marina. The zone was established in the mid to late 1990s and, while not used frequently, it is not unusual for the pontooned airplanes to land in that zone.
"It's an unmanned, unmanaged zone with no limitations with regard to the lake except that they must land within the zone, which is marked with buoys at each corner," he said.
"Just a couple weeks ago, there was a pilot out there making practice landings," he continued. "As I said before, we have no communication that the planes are coming in. It isn't required, and the landing zone is listed in all airport guides."
The key to the FAA ruling outlawing parasailing locally is the word "moored," meaning the airborne object is tethered by a line to the boat.
"It's a big safety hazard for seaplanes coming in because that line is difficult to see," Morton said.
A group that parasailed over Grand Lake during the Labor Day weekend applied for the required annual permit early in the summer. However, another group that wanted permits a couple weeks ago were turned away. Although the FAA ruling has been in effect for some time, it was only recently that it was brought to the attention of local park officials.
"It's unfortunate about the law ... Parasailing looks like fun. Personally, I'd love to try it," Morton said, adding parasailing has been permitted on Grand Lake for a long time.
Actually, it's been about 25 years, according to John Rauh of St. Marys, who was instrumental in working with the state to get parasailing permitted on Grand Lake, which became the first Ohio lake to be approved. Over the years two more parks were added, namely Alum Creek and Dillon state parks, and those lakes are not affected by the FAA ruling.
One of a group of boaters/skiiers who took a big interest in parasailing in the early 1980s, Rauh purchased the equipment and along with some buddies spent a lot of time on the road to Kentucky lakes because there was nowhere to sail in Ohio.
"I was one of a group who worked with local and state ODNR officials to bring the sport here. In fact, state people came from Columbus for a personal demonstration so they could better understand what we wanted to do," Rauh said.
They were interested and invited Rauh to a multi-state convention of state park officials in Cincinnati for a presentation of what parasailing is all about. Not long afterward, Grand Lake got state approval to parasail by permit.
"Parasailing is not without danger, nor is driving a car. It all depends on having everything just right," he said naming wind speed, ground crew, organization of equipment among others.
As to the FAA airport ruling, which eliminates Grand Lake from parasailing, he said he generally agrees with safety considerations.
"But I think it's a matter of again working together. I think both the sea lane and the parasailing can happen on this lake by sitting down with local and state officials and perhaps revising the permit regulations. This is a good sport and I'd hate for the younger generation to lose the opportunity to sail on this lake," Rauh said.
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