Authorities in the Sacandaga Lake region should get their answer as soon as this weekend, and no later than next Wednesday, as to whether they made the right call cutting back on boat patrols.
They may get away with leaving motorboaters, sailors, waterskiers and fishermen to largely police themselves when it comes to observing navigational laws, as well as those of common courtesy, or they may rue the day that, for the sake of some relatively small sums of money, they chose to greatly reduce their presence around the popular recreation area.
Take the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, for example. To save a measly $5,000 (after a $5,000 reimbursement from the state), the Board of Supervisors eliminated funding for regular boat patrols this summer. According to a story in Thursday’s Gazette, the sheriff will have a single boat docked lakeside (where it traditionally had two), but it won’t be used except in an emergency. Ditto the state police in Mayfield. The Saratoga Country Sheriff’s Department will patrol its end of the lake (much smaller than Fulton County’s), while the state Department of Environmental Conservation expects to patrol sporadically, only on weekends.
Obviously, weekends are going to pose the biggest challenge, except for the Fourth itself, and it’s possible that boaters will behave themselves — not drinking too much, driving too fast near shore or other boaters, and generally being respectful of others’ rights to enjoy the lake. But if they don’t, authorities will have to make adjustments. Safe roads may properly be the top priority of a law enforcement agency in these parts, but it can’t be pursued to the detriment of safety everywhere else. And that includes a popular destination like Great Sacandaga Lake, where hundreds of people routinely take to watercraft on busy weekend days.
If the envisioned arrangement doesn’t seem to be working out, it might make some sense for the various authorities to coordinate their efforts, so there’s always at least one with some kind of presence.