Man Intentionally Breaks Regulation To Get Issue Into Courts
ELY, Minn. (AP) _ The owner of a boat service catering to disabled and elderly people is battling federal officials who say motorized craft aren’t allowed in a popular wilderness recreation area.
″I’m going to win because I have the law on my side,″ said Dave Kromer, who owns and operates Dawn to Dusk Pontoon Services. He says his motorized pontoon boat is the only way that the handicapped would be able to see the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Kromer, 39, took his 18-foot boat onto Fall Lake on Thursday and intentionally crossed the line where the million-acre wilderness area begins, setting up a legal battle over its use.
The federally protected wilderness area on the Canadian border is popular with canoeists and other aficionados of outdoor recreation.
When Kromer entered the area, U.S. Forest Service officials tagged him with a citation requiring that he either pay a $100 fine or go to court, in which case he faces a maximum fine of $500 and six months in jail if he loses. Kromer said he will go to court nonetheless.
″The seniors and the disabled have the right to visit this area,″ Kromer said. ″The Forest Service is cutting down on that. They’re saying the disabled can’t go in there if they’re not physically able. That’s really sad.″
But a U.S. Forest Service official said he believes few people want Kromer’s boat in the wilderness and that special provisions shouldn’t be made for the handicapped.
″We believe the law is very, very clear,″ said Jack Blackwell, recreational staff officer for the U.S. Forest Service in Duluth. ″The handicapped do not get a special exemption. They are to take the wilderness as it is.″
″Use of pontoon boats within the wilderness area is not an acceptable form of transportation up there,″ Blackwell said.
″We don’t feel any animosity toward Mr. Kromer. If he wants to test us, that’s fine and dandy. We believe that the overwhelming majority of people here don’t want to see pontoon boats up here.″
While federal law allows only canoes and other paddle-only watercraft on about 90 percent of the water in the wilderness area, Fall and Basswood are part of a chain of lakes where certain motorized watercraft are allowed.
The law does not specifically list pontoon boats, though, Blackwell said.
Last summer, Kromer got to make 25 trips to the Basswood Lake while his request for a permit to use the pontoon boat was pending.
But the Forest Service eventually rejected the request, saying the company’s motorized pontoon boat is incompatible with the surrounding wilderness and is bigger than most boats in the area.