Camden man takes fight against Jet Ski ban into Memorial Day parade

By David Grima
(Created: Monday, May 26, 2008 10:37 AM EDT)

CAMDEN — Pearl Street resident Mark Haskell took his campaign against the state’s anti-“Jet Ski” law onto the streets of Camden, Monday morning May 26, when he took part in the annual Memorial Day parade.

Mark Haskell of Camden hands out flyers about his fight against the ban on personal watercraft on Lake St. George, while riding in the Memorial Day parade. DAVID GRIMAThe Maine Supreme Court recently overturned a lower court’s ruling concerning citizens’ rights to use personal watercraft on lakes where they have been banned by the state Legislature. The state is within its rights to enact such a ban, the top court said.

Earlier, a lower court on Belfast had thrown out charges against Haskell, arising from when he was summonsed for operating a personal watercraft on Lake St. George in Liberty, in July 2005. The Supreme Court ruled that the judge was mistaken in throwing out the case, and has ordered that the case be retried.

But Haskell has vowed to continue the fight against the personal watercraft ban. He sat on his machine on a trailer towed in the parade, Monday, and handed out notices inviting people to enjoy Lake St. George this July 4. He does not outright solicit people to ride personal watercraft.

Following is a flyer Haskell also distributed during the parade.


“In 2002 several kids at a rental camp terrorized the lakes residences with irresponsible operation of a couple of jet skis. They did many of the things that typical kids do. They raced around as fast as they could, making lots of noise. As I understand it, there were some close calls as they almost hit some swimmers and even chased wildlife and loons. I do not condone this type of behavior!

“My family has owned property on Lake St. George for over 40 years. It is, in my opinion, one of the most wonderful and special places in the whole state of Maine. During those years we have had or used just about every type of watercraft there is. Rowboats, sailboats, canoes, kayaks, bass boats, party boats, powerboats and paddle boats. And yes Personal Water Craft, (Jet Skis).

“At the 2003 Liberty town meeting there was discussion as to what could be done. It seems the warden service could not catch the young troublemakers ‘in the act’ and where unable to enforce the laws that are already in place. Local residents did not know who to turn to. ‘I know what my Dad would have done’. Liberty residents voted to request the Maine legislature adopt a ban on PWC’s. 42 people voted for the ban. Please note that non residents of Liberty could not vote. Also note, that over 75 percent of the property owners on Lake St. George are not Liberty residents and had no say, what so ever. I fall into this group. The town of Liberty asked Rep. Carol Weston to present a bill to the legislature requesting a ban. I tried to attend the public hearing, but was told it had been canceled because the bill came out of the Fish and Wildlife committee with an ‘ought not to pass’ recommendation. The bill was later brought to the floor and passed anyway.

“Late that summer, long after the legislature had adjourned, I read in the morning newspaper about the new law and immediately contacted several elected officials for an explanation. I tried to do something about it that Labor Day but, because of the time of year and my busy season in business, time slipped away. In 2004, my mother became ill and passed away. I did not spend a single day at the lake during July or August.

“2005 came along, I decided to go into semi retirement as I call it, and realized it was time to act. To stand up to, what I believe, is a situation that is just plain wrong. My contention all along is that the only reason for this law is a very small group of people with the attitude of ‘I don’t like it, you can’t do it!’ You may have heard the term NIMBY for “Not in My Back Yard”. What is so unique about a jet ski (PWC)?

“Let me be perfectly clear. I do not condone chasing loons or harassing wildlife. I actually agree that some regulation is necessary. An outright Ban No! Do some boats go to fast? What’s too fast? I don’t have that answer. Some boats make a lot of noise. What’s too much? I don’t have that answer. Yes, Kids do horse around and do some crazy and stupid things. Nobody’s ever going to change that! What happened to common courtesy, respect for others and being responsible for your actions? What about paying attention to how your actions affect others, such as following the rules of the road. You don’t charge past a fisherman or go too close to a canoe. Maybe if you are going to swim in the middle of the lake you should at least wear a bright colored hat or have a buoy? When someone is on a wakeboard, tube or water skis, not only do they have rules to follow, but others need to be aware as well. Accidents do happen and people do get hurt. We cannot legislate for common sense or against stupidity.

“Forward to my trial in district court before Judge Marden; as part of many hours of testimony and evidence from witnesses and experts, even from the Maine Warden Service officer who uses a PWC to patrol. I told a story of something very personal that happened to me. As a kid, some friends and I would run circles around each other in our boats. I had an aluminum boat with a 5.5-horsepower Johnson motor. One of the neighbor kids had a slightly bigger motor and others had ‘those damn speed boats’, as my dad would say. One day we got to bouncing around on the wakes and collided. Luckily no-one was hurt, but my parents were quite upset. (They where probably scared them to death.) They grounded me! I remember all too well sitting on shore watching the other kids go back and forth from Carter’s to Janssen’s to Shute’s to Hurwitz.’ Back and forth back and forth, kids being kids! The judge said, “You mean it’s the person, not the craft that cause’s the problem”. I wanted to yell “Bingo!”, but restrained.

“The gist of what has happed so far is Judge Marden declared the law Unconstitutional.

“The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that it is not Unconstitutional because the Maine Legislature can pass any thing it wants because ‘legislative actions are not subject to courtroom fact-finding’ and need not be supported by ‘evidence or empirical data.’

“Also, ‘The State argues that personalized watercraft have unique speed and maneuverability, that they are ‘more of a plaything than a true boat’ and that the legislature could reasonably have concluded they are a threat to public health, safety, and welfare… Given the unique characteristics of personalized watercraft, their speed, and maneuverability, the legislature could rationally determine that they pose a unique risk to others on great ponds.’

“First of all, just because they can doesn’t mean they should. You might think that ‘courtroom fact-finding’ and ‘evidence or empirical data’ should be something that our elected officials consider.

“Second, what is a plaything? Is a bass boat not a plaything? Is a kayak, canoe, wakeboat or jetboat a plaything or a true boat? What is a true boat? Is it length, width, power, size, shape, use? Is it cost or is it someone’s opinion? The Maine Warden Service patrols on a jetski almost identical to mine. Is theirs a real boat or a plaything?

“Third, If …. ‘they are a threat to public health, safety, and welfare.’ And if … ‘Given the unique characteristics of personalized watercraft, their speed, and maneuverability, the legislature could rationally determine that they pose a unique risk to others on great ponds.’

“Why are they allowed and even welcomed on other great ponds? The law that I’m challenging is only on Lake St. George, but the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling and the State’s argument refers to great ponds.

How can I go five miles down the road and put the exact same watercraft in the water and not be ‘a threat to public health, safety, and welfare.’

“Fourth, how can the State of Maine condone the use of PWC by accepting money for registration, taxes and fees if ‘they are a threat to public health, safety, and welfare.’ And if they are ‘a unique risk to others on great ponds.’ Should the State of Maine be required to return all registration, taxes and fees?

“I’m willing to volunteer to work with the legislature to help correct this problem and the can of worms they have created. I’m not willing to give up my freedoms. What will they come for next?

“So where do we stand. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court: Judgment vacated. Remanded for further proceeding. Judge Marden has retired. So in all likelihood we will have to start again. The only thing unique about PWC/Jet Ski’s is simple prejudice, some people just don’t like them!

Not in my back yard just don’t cut it, when Lake St George is my back yard, too!


Mark Haskell,

51 Pearl St.


Maine 04843

E-mail Phone 207-236-3829.

Reader Messages
There are 5 comment(s)

outraged wrote on May 27, 2008 12:17 AM: " Well -- parade organizers allowed Haskell to participate, so they are at fault as well.

Haskell is on the newspaper staff. He probably thinks he's Mr. Celebrity, given the extensive press he and his cause have received, even in the Boston Globe.

I did not attend the parade, but see that a face-painter had applied to the town for permission to use a space in which to do it. That's not what the day is about.

Good thing Memorial Day is really on May 30th, when it can be observed with the appropriate solemnity.

Personal take on jet skis? Idiotic. Built for speed and general mayhem. Of course, but not for use on quiet waters. Take them out on the ocean. "

act write wrote on May 26, 2008 10:34 PM: " Appalling. "

Fox Mulder wrote on May 26, 2008 10:01 PM: " I was wondering what this was all about since a jet ski looked totally out of place in the parade. Someone needs to remind Mr. Haskell the true meaning of Memorial Day. This was a selfish and disrespectful act on his part. Speaking as a Vietnam (1968-1969) combat infantry veteran, I am offended by his actions. "

Stella wrote on May 26, 2008 9:42 PM: " This was a day about honoring men and women who have served the country. Not a day for someone to bring their personal court case to the parade. Very poor taste. "

Aseeker wrote on May 26, 2008 3:35 PM: " When gas gets to $10 a gallon and flour $100 a bag, maybe we can move on to more pressing matters of freedom and the food riots of the starving millions. "

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