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Public weighs in on parasailing at Lake George

Parasailing operations are seen Tuesday from the village of Lake George. (Provided photo — Gwendolyn Craig, The Post-Star)

LAKE GEORGE — Parasailing operators and members of the public gave Lake George Park commissioners their takes Tuesday morning about parasailing on the lake.

The public input session, held at the Town Hall, was prompted by a near-drowning earlier this summer of a man who was parasailing. Representatives of the company involved in that incident came to the meeting and spoke out against more regulations.

David Wick, executive director of the Park Commission, said after the meeting that an ad hoc committee will be talking to the parasailing businesses and will follow up with any recommendations to the full Park Commission.

“It’s good to hear all sides of it,” he said about the public session.

Three parasailing businesses operate on Lake George, but Wick said one of them hasn’t been active for a few years. The two that are active may operate three boats each, with the potential of six parasails being aloft at once.

A few members of the public told park commissioners they were concerned about some aspects of the parasailing operations.

Bruce Lundgren, who lives on the eastern side of the lake in the southern basin, said the wakes the boats create are destroying lakefront property.

Lance Hillman, who has been boating and parasailing on the lake for decades, read from his notepad a list of things he believes operators should be doing, although some of them were already in the current regulations or didn’t apply to the kinds of boats operators use.

Hillman said he didn’t have a problem with six boats operating on the lake, but he suggested that operators coordinate on the directions they travel.

“It’s a fun sport,” Hillman said. “It’s relatively safe. You just have to be aware.”

Hillman offered to be a resource to commissioners, adding that, “it just bugs me sometimes personally to see people make rules when they have no idea what they’re talking about.”

Staff from Pinky’s Parasailing Adventures/JDQ Enterprises, the company involved in a July boating accident in which a downstate man got trapped in the water under parasailing lines and gear, were present at the meeting. The man, 23-year-old Adrian Robles of New Windsor, was in critical condition for a time. The captain of the boat, Kate Leary, was issued a ticket for not having a spotter on the boat.

Michael Wistuk, general operations manager for the company, told commissioners that the incident was “directly related to the fact that the person did not listen to the safety briefing they were given.”

“More people drown in this lake every year than get killed in parasailing in the whole United States,” Wistuk said. “This is the safest water activity that you have in the lake. There’s never been a death. There’s never really truly been a serious incident or accident.”

Parasailing is regulated under the Federal Aviation Administration and the Water Sport Industry Association, Wistuk added. Captains for the company are U.S. Coast Guard certified and certified in First Aid, life-guarding and CPR. They need a minimum of 50 hours of experience driving a boat, and a minimum of 500 test flights before they’re allowed to fly people, he continued.

“I don’t really think we need any other regulations,” Wistuk said.

Carol Collins, a resident on the lake, said she feels parasailing is incompatible with other uses and excludes other activities on the lake.

Leary said she has taught parasailing all over the world, including to cruise lines like Royal Caribbean. In Asia, she said, there is a lake much smaller than Lake George that has 80 parasailing boats.

Six on a lake the size of Lake George, she said, is not a space or incompatibility issue.

Leary and Wistuk also talked about how their boats no longer tow parasails. Instead, they use a winch, reeling fliers in and out. The winch, Wistuk and Leary said, makes it easier to turn.

Park Commission Chairman Bruce Young thanked the public for their input.

It’s not clear when the ad hoc committee, which Young appointed at the Park Commission’s July meeting, will come forward with recommendations.