Gonzales Boat Club denied idle zone

Mary-Glenn Smith

Members of the Gonzales Boat Club requested during an Ascension Parish Council Strategic Planning Committee meeting Monday that the parish council authorize a no-wake zone for the club’s public boat launch that they plan to build.

The GBC, located at 13311 Diversion Canal Road in St. Amant, has already received a permit from the Army Corps of Engineering to build a 12-foot-wide by  30-foot-deep public launch on the club’s property.

“If the GBC builds the boat launch and then the idle-zone is not granted, the expense and burden placed upon the organization is tremendous,” said concerned member Nan Riffe.

Cruise captain, Phillip Smith, along with other members of GBC feel before they can open a boat launch to the public they will need no-wake/idle zone to ensure boaters safety.

“I wouldn’t expect someone to launch a boat in 4-foot wakes,” Smith said. “It’s just not safe.”

At the meeting, John Templet, member of the Ascension Parish Waterway Commission told the council and GBC members they can not instill a wake zone for the protection of boats or actual marina. He then denied GBC a no-wake zone and a public launch.

Templet mentioned that if GBC was granted a no-wake zone, then other business might want to instill an idle zone and may end up idling the whole canal.

“We will end up with a circus out there with this one,” Templet said.

According to Templet, zoning is also a factor with the GBC being denied a no-wake zone.

“There is not enough room for boats and trailers to back down into the water,” Templet said. “They would have to back down from the highway and it could cause traffic problems.”

Committee Chairman Kent Schexnaydre and Vice Chairman George Valentine both said they would like to move forward with the issue when GBC meets the zoning requirements mentioned by Templet.

The committee voted to take no action and told members of the GBC if there were any changes to let them know.

After the meeting members of the club were frustrated with waterway commission, feeling they are missing the point of instilling the no-wake zone. Members said the commission goes off on tangents that do not provide the club with any real answers as to why they are being denied the no-wake zone.

 ”I have been to each meeting regarding the issue of the no-wake/idle zone for the area adjacent to the Gonzales Boat Club,” Riffe said. “I have not yet heard any rebuttal whatsoever concerning the safety issues of everyone; but instead the rebuttal of whether or not the idle zone is for boat protection or bulkhead protection.”

Established in 1959 with a charter by the state, GBC is a non-profit organization and the only one in the area to offer any type of boating safety training, other than Wildlife and Fisheries.

“There is not a training facility in the local Ascension Parish area set up for or better qualified for teaching boating safety than the certified instructors that have provided the classes from the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries at the GBC facility,” Riffe said. “We have had classes provided by the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Water Patrol as well.”

GBC hosts 28 events a year, including activities on how to launch a boat, how to anchor a boat, man overboard training, on water boat inspections, boat trailer inspections, and more.

“Our events and activities are limited without a no-wake zone,” Smith said. “It’s too dangerous to launch a boat in an areas without a no-wake zone.”