LIBERTY, Maine — After more than a decade defying a jet ski ban on the waters of Lake St. George and in courtrooms, Mark Haskell has decided to call it quits, sell his lakefront property and get rid of his Sea Doo.
During Liberty’s lengthy town meeting last weekend, residents voted to keep the ban on the books. The vote was 99-36, rejecting Haskell’s request to have the town ask the Legislature to remove Lake St. George from a list of places where personal watercraft aren’t allowed.
“This has been a comedy of errors from the start,” Haskell said during a phone interview Monday. “They’re scared for their lives against jet skis.”
Haskell has argued that the personal watercraft ban unfairly singles out jet ski operators, while allowing other motorized boaters to use the water freely. The focus should be on policing operators to ensure they’re acting responsibly rather than banning specific vehicles, Haskell said.
During the meeting, several community members stood up to say they were concerned for the safety of their relatives swimming in the lake or using other boats in the lake. Others said the noise was an issue, and that it could drive away loons, and some felt jet skis attracted thrillseekers who operated them in a dangerous manner.
Haskell, a Camden resident and retired photographer, said after the meeting that he’s done fighting and plans to leave town, but will still spend time at the lake he’s enjoyed for decades.
“Knowing that people are scared that I could kill them if I rode by on a jet ski and I could be the cause of loons being decimated on the lake, I can’t have that on my conscience,” Haskell said, tongue in cheek.
The ban started in 2003, enacted by the town at the request of a group of lake residents. Haskell felt it was discriminatory and defied it, taking his Jet Ski out on the 1,000-acre lake in 2005. He got a ticket, and challenged the ticket in court.
That case made it all the way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in 2008. The state’s highest court determined that municipalities did, in fact, have the right to ban personal watercraft on their lakes and ponds.
That foiled Haskell’s bid to have the ban overturned, but he continued to fight the ban in other ways, even asking Maine Gov. Paul LePage to intervene at one point, according to The Free Press. Haskell has been cited for defying the ban at least four times. The most recent ticket he received was a couple summers ago, he said.
“I’m done with it, I’m not chasing it around anymore,” Haskell said.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.