Public boating access standards. NR 1.91(1)(1)
Sections NR 1.91
shall apply to department decisions related to acquiring, developing, maintaining and improving public boating access sites, providing natural resources enhancement services and to other department decisions relating to protection and use of navigable waters. Sections NR 1.91
do not allow trespass across private lands, change existing trespass law nor change navigation laws. Sections NR 1.91
would not apply to waterways which are not public navigable waters such as most artificial manmade ponds. The rights of riparian owners for singular access to adjacent waterways would also be unaffected.
abandonment", “discontinuance" means a permanent or long-term closure of an access site whether by resolution, ordinance, signing, placement of a physical barrier or by other means that reduces access.
“Access site" means an area of land providing public boat access or carry-in access, which provides parking for vehicles with or without trailers.
“Carry-in access" means access designed only for non-trailered boat launching.
“Natural resources enhancement services" means funding or activities that increase the recreational or environmental values of a waterway. These services include fish stocking, removal or other fish population management, habitat development, financial assistance for aquatic plant harvesting and any other services that increase the recreational or environmental values of a waterway and are supported with a grant awarded under ch. NR 193
“Open water acres" means the water body surface which appears as water predominantly devoid of emergent vegetation on recent aerial photographs representative of the navigation season. This determination shall be made by the department and shall include open water acres on all contiguous waters connected by a channel or river commonly navigated by motorized craft.
“Plan" means an alternative boating access and waterway protection plan developed by the department or a local unit of government pursuant to sub. (6)
“Public access", for purposes of s. NR 1.92
, means any site providing motor vehicle access to ice-bound waters, public boating access or carry-in access.
“Public boating access" means any site or combination of sites including private sites meeting the provisions of sub. (7)
at which the general public may gain legal access to a body of water by the process of launching a boat.
“Reasonable public boating access" means opportunities for public enjoyment and use of navigable waters which:
Allow public rights of navigation and related incidental uses of the water which are equal for all,
Comply with the standards for boating access established in this policy,
Are available free or at a reasonable fee as determined by standards established in this policy, and
Assure that levels and types of waterway use by all users do not interfere with public health, safety and welfare.
“Reduced" means lowering the number of parking units available for public use.
“Resident" means a natural person who permanently resides or owns real property within the unit of government maintaining or operating the access site.
“Resource protection services" include but are not limited to nonpoint pollution control grants, loans for municipal sewage treatment facilities, acquisition grants under the urban green space program, lake planning grants, lake protection grants and funding for municipal boating safety patrols and aids to navigation.
“Season pass" means authorization to use boat access facilities provided by the issuing authority when use of the facilities are available from January 1 to December 31 of each year.
“Services level" means that level of public boating access which meets or exceeds the levels described in sub. (4)
When acquiring and developing public boating access sites, the following shall have priority, in no prescribed order of importance:
Sites on lakes of over 500 open water acres that fail to meet the services level specified in sub. (4)
Sites, statewide, on waters having the greatest boating demands.
Sites which will provide public boating access to rivers and carry-in access to streams failing to meet the services level specified in sub. (4)
(4) Minimum public boating access to qualify waters for resource enhancement services. NR 1.91(4)(a)
The department may only provide natural resource enhancement services for a body of water when it determines that the general public has been provided with reasonable public boating access. The department may not provide natural resource enhancement services on waters where public access has been abandoned or reduced without prior approval by the department.
The department may continue to provide enhancement services to waters that do not meet minimum public boating access development standards where the department determines that existing access facilities are sufficient to meet existing public demand for access.
The department may provide resource protection services for pollution abatement or prevention, natural resources protection, public safety or public boating access if public boating access is not available on a waterway.
A waterway has reasonable public boating access and is eligible for natural resource enhancement services when public boating access meets the following standards:
- See PDF for table
In addition to these standards, additional parking for handicapped individuals meeting the federal and state standards shall also be met. Lakes greater than 50 open water acres in size shall be provided with facilities capable of launching a trailered boat unless exempted by an approved plan.
Parking shall be contiguous with the launch site unless the department determines that resource protection, spatial restrictions or other factors require a greater distance. At each site parking for persons with disabilities may be provided at a location different from that for the general public if necessary to comply with federal accessibility standards.
Public boating access shall be available free or at a fee meeting the requirements of sub. (11)
Public boating access support facilities such as toilets, waste containers, lights, etc., shall be provided where necessary for public safety, or to protect resources or resolve conflicts with affected property owners.
Public boating access shall, at a minimum, be open during normal operating hours for outdoor public recreational facilities in the vicinity and year-round unless public safety requires closure. An exception may be made when public boating access is provided through agreement with a private provider. Any boat launched during operating hours may not be denied egress from the water at any time through the public boating access. Any designated parking unit when found unoccupied shall be considered available for use regardless of prior occupancy, except those designated for handicap use.
Public boating access shall provide for use which is consistent with protection of navigable water and generally enjoyed by all users.
Local units of government or the department may pursue more public boating access to waters than is required in sub. (4)
. The department may pursue public boating access to achieve the maximums in par. (b)
unless local governments or the department adopt and implement a plan.
The department has determined that granting permits for boating access on bodies of water where the maximum access standards are exceeded will materially impair navigation and is detrimental to the public interest. The department may not pursue public boating access development nor may it approve permits or provide financial assistance for public boating access beyond the levels described in this subsection unless greater levels are established in a plan.
- See PDF for table
(6) Alternative public boating access and waterway protection plans. NR 1.91(6)(a)(a)
Natural resource enhancement services may be provided for waters that have less public boating access than that in sub. (4) (d)
, and public boating access may be developed that exceeds levels in sub. (5) (b)
only if local governments or the department implement a plan. Plans developed by local governments require written approval by the department prior to adoption.
Plans shall identify and assess the effects of waterway use on natural resources, describe mechanisms to protect public safety and natural resources, and identify public boating access that meets the objectives of s. NR 1.90
. Plans may apply to individual waters or groups of similar waters. Plans shall consider environmental as well as social and developmental factors which may include:
Nature and composition of fish, wildlife and presence of threatened or endangered resources.
Ability of the municipality to regulate land use and development.
Ability of the municipality to enforce public safety regulations.
Trespass problems associated with increased access on rivers and streams.
Appropriate levels and types of public access based on a consideration of the issues in subds. 1.
Ability of the municipality to effectively implement the plan.
The department shall approve proposed plans and implementing ordinances if it determines that the plans and implementing ordinances are consistent with protection of public health, safety and welfare, the objectives of s. NR 1.90
and include an accurate analysis of the issues in par. (b)
. Department decisions related to plan approval may be appealed under ch. 227
, Stats. The department shall withhold enhancement services until an approved plan is fully implemented. Public boating access site development shall comply with any approved plan. The department may not approve grants and permits if the decision would conflict with an approved plan.
The sponsor of an approved plan shall publish a summary of the plan as a class I legal notice.
The department may waive the minimum reasonable access standards or the need for an alternative plan where it finds that this would not serve to protect the public rights and interest in the waterway.
(7) Private providers.
Privately owned public boating access shall be included in any determination of access availability for purposes of compliance with ss. NR 1.91
and provision of resource enhancement services if:
It is provided free or for a reasonable fee, as defined in sub. (11)
The owner furnishes an irrevocable contract with the state, agreeing to provide specified public boating access facilities for not less than 5 years, and
Facilities meet the public boating access site development standards under sub. (8)
(8) Public boating access site development standards.
In addition to other state and federal requirements, including but not limited to the uniform federal accessibility standards (UFAS) published by the architectural and transportation barriers compliance board (ATBCB), the Americans with disabilities act (P.L. 101-336
) accessibility guidelines (ADAAG) and the state of Wisconsin building codes (chs. SPS 361
), the following standards shall apply to acquisition, development and maintenance of boating access sites for the purpose of determining compliance with ss. NR 1.90
Natural shoreline beauty shall be protected by preserving or creating adequate vegetative screening for facilities and parking.
The sum of all public boating access sites on a water body shall accommodate multiple types of use appropriate for the waterway. Individual access sites shall be designed to minimize conflicts between uses at the site and on the water body.
The site and support facilities shall be designed and located so as to avoid damage to critical habitat and other environmentally sensitive areas.
Each site shall be designed to provide barrier-free public boating access for persons with disabilities.
Each site shall be clearly marked at public roadways. Fees and hours of operation shall be clearly posted.
(9) Financial assistance programs.
Providing public boating access is a partnership program between state and local units of government. The department may only provide financial assistance for projects which comply with ss. NR 1.90
and other applicable state and federal requirements. The department shall assist municipalities in applying for state financial assistance for renovation, operation or maintenance expenses if the maximum allowable launch fees do not provide enough revenue to pay for these access site expenses.
(10) Maintenance agreements.
When in the best interests of the state, the department may engage the services of others, by written agreement, with or without compensation, for maintenance of state-owned or funded public boating access sites.
(11) Boat launching fees.
The department encourages free boat launching. A reasonable launch fee may be charged under authority of s. 30.77
, Stats., for the purpose of operating and maintaining a boat access site owned or operated by municipalities, lake management districts and other access providers meeting the provisions of sub. (7)
. Charging excessive, unjustified or unreasonable boat launching fees restricts or prohibits public boating access and use of navigable waters in the state. A reasonable launch fee for the purposes of s. 30.77
, Stats., is one that does not exceed the maximum allowable amount under the following criteria:
(a) Base fee.
A base is that fee that is charged a state resident vehicle for entrance to the state parks.
(b) Public boating access surcharges.
Municipalities, lake management districts and other public boating access providers that maintain any of the following services may add to the base fee not more than the following surcharges for vehicles with trailers. No more than the base fee may be charged for non-motorized or non-trailered boats.