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25 National Parks To Allow Jet Skis

September 15, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The National Park Service said Tuesday it will allow continued use of jet skis at 25 recreation and seashore areas where they now are primarily used, but impose a ban on the watercraft at all other facilities.

Use of the controversial watercraft would be reviewed over the next two years at 11 of the 25 sites with an eye toward restricting _ or perhaps banning _ their use on a case-by-case basis.

Some environmentalists had sought a total ban of jet skis throughout the park system, even in popular recreation areas such Lake Mead in Nevada where they have been extremely popular for years.

But the Park Service rejected such a sweeping ban, arguing that use of jet skis was not appropriate at 13 sites _ many of them manmade lakes such as Lake Mead _ where recreational boating is a primary attraction.

The agency said most jet skis currently used within the park system are found in those 13 areas. The regulation was aimed at preventing the spread of the skis to waterways in other parks.

The National Park and Conservation Association called the action ``a long overdue move to protect the water and wildlife of the parks″ but said it was concerned that unregulated jet ski use would continue at 12 parks while the issue is being further reviewed.

``They should prohibit jet ski use in those parks until the special regulation process has been completed,″ said Tom Kirnan, president of the National Parks and Conservation Association, a private advocacy group.

Nevertheless, Kirnan praised the Park Service for having ``recognized that thrill-craft like jet skis don’t belong in most units of the national park system because they damage resources and disturb visitors.″

The regulation is expected to become final in 60 days after a formal comment period. It has been under consideration for more than a year.

``The new regulations will not stop jet skis at our national parks. It will only slow down their growth,″ Russell Long, director of the San Francisco-based environmental group Bluewater Network, said recently.

Many environmentalists complain that jet skis are noisy, leak oil and gas into the water, pose safety risks to other visitors and damage natural resources.

``We think there are places the public wants to be able to continue to use them,″ said Park Service spokesman David Barna.

Americans own 1.2 million jet skis, with sales running about 200,000 a year, according to the Personal Watercraft Industry Association. They account for 11 percent of watercraft registered in the country and 35 percent of the accidents involving vessels in water. Some states and local governments have restricted jet ski use.

Under the proposed federal rule, the craft may be used indefinitely at two national seashores _ Gulf Island (Florida-Mississippi) and Padre Island (Texas) _ and in 11 national recreational areas: Amistad (Texas), Bighorn Canyon (Montana), Chickasaw (Oklahoma), Curecanti (Colorado), Gateway (New York-New Jersey), Glen Canyon (Arizona-New Mexico), Golden Gate (California), Lake Mead (Nevada), Lake Meredith (Texas), Lake Roosevelt (Washington), Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity (California).

Those sites where the craft will be evaluated over the next two years but be allowed in the interim, are: Assateague Island (Maryland), Canaveral (Florida), Cape Cod (Massachusetts), Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout (both North Carolina), Cumberland Island (Georgia), Fire Island (New York), Indiana Dunes (Indiana), Picture Rocks and Sleeping Bear Dunes (both Michigan), Chattahoochee River (Georgia), Delaware Water Gap (Pennsylvania-New Jersey).

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