Boaters beware: Water patrol may be watching

A Ramsey County trailer with a pole-mounted camera sits on Chateauguet property off the Lake Avenue trail near West Park.

WHITE BEAR LAKE — Ramsey County Water Patrol has an eye on misbehaving boaters. Actually anyone piloting a watercraft within view of a pole-mounted camera in front of Chateauguet is under surveillance. And that goes for people pooping on the beach. 

A mobile camera normally deployed for large events was hauled over to the condominiums a few weeks ago to act as a deterrent to boaters breaking the law, according to Commander Eric Bradt, head of the county water patrol unit. One condo resident speaking at the July White Bear Lake Conservation District meeting, also attended by Bradt, said she watched someone wade ashore and defecate. 

The camera is in plain sight off the Lake Avenue trail, Bradt said. Two cameras high in the air record activity in the vicinity. “It’s only for us to view,” he pointed out. “We can watch it live on our phones or computers and move the cameras remotely for different angles.”

A registration number can be read as far as new buoys by Memorial Beach, a popular area for boats to anchor.  

Asked if citations have increased since the cameras appeared, Bradt said, “no. But I can tell you it has been a deterrent. Some press has curbed bad behavior. We haven’t had the same amount of calls as prior to that. There are probably a number of reasons; stepped up enforcement, public meetings and conversation at docks and marinas about things going on.”

And the “green boat” that was singled out by island resident Denny Trooien as a reason for ramped up complaint calls? “I’ve seen it a few times but it’s not the same behavior as we saw before we stepped up enforcement,” Bradt replied. He also hasn’t seen the mob of jet skis that were observed by Trooien June 26 misbehaving on the lake. 

As promised at the conservation meeting, Bradt reviewed an incident report taken by White Bear Lake PD between Trooien and boaters at the VFW docks. Trooien described to district board members how he scuffled with a man who tried to grab his phone after Trooien started taking video of the green boat and its occupants. 

“I did review the (disorderly conduct) report taken by White Bear Lake PD at the VFW,” Bradt shared. “I didn’t pursue it any further with the city attorney after I read the report. It sounded like the gentleman (Trooien) went down on the dock and may have caused some of the confrontation himself.”

The commander feels people are being more respectful on the lake after those initial complaints. The music is not as loud and areas are not as congested. “I say that cautiously because any given weekend this group or others could reappear,” Bradt said. “I’m not saying the problem is gone but it should get better as summer winds down.” 

He added that the complaints aren’t always accurate. That’s where the cameras and a pair of binoculars come in handy. “Some people call more often than others,” Bradt noted. “We want to validate the complaint.” That’s not to say someone shouldn’t call 911. “Please call if there’s a problem, but know we will determine what is reality and what is not.”

Conservation District Vice Chair Mark Ganz hopes to sit down next year with both Ramsey County and Washington County law enforcement when they sign the water patrol contracts to see if more hours are needed. The district funds the county patrol boats. 

White Bear Lake is still a safe lake, assured Bradt. “Our boater assists far outweigh the number of citations. Most of what we do is education on the lake because people don’t know the law. We stop them, educate them and write written warnings to show we’ve made contact. there is no fine involved. Just a handful of people have caused the problem.” 

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