LAPORTE | About 150 people turned out for a public hearing Tuesday sponsored by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources on plans for a boat race in LaPorte.
There were a fair share of supporters and opponents who voiced opinions that will be considered when the DNR decides whether to issue a permit for a race expected to draw crowds from a wide area.
"Uphold the integrity of Stone Lake," LaPorte resident Barb Hooper said.
Hooper and others against the race pointed out Stone Lake has a 10 mile per hour speed limit due to its small size. It is used for relaxing by operators of small engine and paddle boats for fishing or gazing at the wildlife.
Among the fears of opponents is that a race will lead to future races and disruption of spawning fish in the calm, quiet waters.
"It's about setting a precedent for the future use of the lake," Hooper said.
The U.S. Formula 1 Powerboat/Formula One P.R.O.P. Tour has added LaPorte to its schedule of 8 races this year.
What's billed as the"Maple City Grand Prix" is scheduled over a three day period starting May 31.
One of the racers, Chris Fairchild, from the Chicago area, said the 17 to 18 foot long tunnel boats travel at high speeds but require just over a foot of water depth to perform.
"We don't really make a lot of big waves," Fairchild said, who tried easing fears about pollution from burning high volumes of fuel.
Fairchild said each boat will use about 30 gallons of fuel but the gasoline is high quality allowing every ounce to be burned.
"We don't dump it back into the lake," he said.
Jack Arnett, executive director of the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau said his agency will invest $60,000 to bring in the racers and promote the event.
He said the goal is to find a balance with people concerned about the environment and wanting to attend a major event.
"It's such an exciting event to offer the community," LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo said.
According to DNR officials, the public hearing was held because of a petition signed by at least 25 opponents of the race.
The comments will be sent to DNR Director Robert Carter, who will make a decision on the permit application, officials said.