LAPORTE | The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has given its blessing to a boat race in LaPorte under certain conditions.
More than 25 people signed a petition opposing the event, which triggered a public hearing March 26 by DNR and generated worries among race supporters that a permit would not be issued.
Jack Arnett, executive director of the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau, applauded the process, which allowing the race to happen while addressing the concerns from the opposition.
"I think this was an outstanding process," Arnett said.
With the permit now in hand, what's billed as the first Maple City Grand Prix will feature rapidly accelerating tunnel boats racing on Stone Lake for three days starting May 31.
Among the fears of opponents are wakes disrupting the eggs of spawning fish, fuel spillage and setting a precedent for hosting other races and events unsettling to the transquility of a small inland lake.
Conditions of the permit set forth by DNR include a minimum 200 foot safety zone from the shoreline entered only by boats affiliated with the race and no public access to Stone Lake by any fishing or recreational boat during the timeframe of the race, which is roughly from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
All work boats during the race must also not exceed the existing 10 mile per hour speed limit, unless there's an emergency, to keep down turbulence.
Maj. Michael Portteus, support services commander for the DNR in Indianapolis, said there were merits to what was expressed from opponents and supporters of the race.
"There was a lot of (passionate) interest on both sides," Portteus said.
All staging of event boats must also occur in the beach area to avoid disturbing the shoreline and vegetation where fish create nests and spawn.
DNR will also give advance public notice of future meetings involving the race and make sure a conservation officer is present to answer questions from the public, Portteus said.
LaPorte City Councilman Ron McAtee said things might get a little noisy during the three day event, but feels the racers will take good care of the lake.
"They are not going to hurt it. In the long run a little noise for the economic impact it's definitely a good thing for the city," McAtee said.
The racers from all parts of the country are with the U.S. Formula 1 Powerboat/Formula One P.R.O.P. Tour, which added LaPorte to its schedule of eight races this year.
Arnett said there are no indications yet how many people will attend the three-day event, but speculation has been in the tens of thousands.
"Being a first time event we really don't know. I expect pretty good numbers," Arnett said.