The ice left Lake Minnetonka on April 2, marking the start to boating season. But Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order has left some people wondering what the rules are when it comes to getting out on the water during the coronavirus pandemic.

State officials are encouraging people get outside during this time, with activities like fishing, enjoying nature, walking and biking all permitted (so long as people are practicing social distancing by staying six feet apart) during the stay-at-home order. Boating is also a safe activity, if it's done correctly. 

“As the weather warms up, there’s a natural drive for Minnesotans to get outdoors,” Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson said in an April 16 news release. “We certainly understand and encourage that. However, we are asking everyone to follow a few additional safety guidelines so that everyone heading out onto the water can do so safely. Now more than ever, we need to make sure we’re considering how our actions affect those around us.”

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office's guidelines, which it says will allow people to enjoy lakes without violating the letter or spirit of the order, include:

  • Only boat with those in your immediate household.
  • Do not invite guests onto your boat. This includes family members not in your immediate household and your favorite fishing buddies.
  • Go right from your house to the boat and back, avoiding all unnecessary contact with anyone during your trip.
  • No beaching or tying up to other boats. Keep your boat and the people in your boat at least six feet away from other boats and people.
  • Do not use a beach, boat ramp or marina that is closed.

These tips come days after dock installation and related work were added to the list of essential workers, according to guidance added the week of April 13 from the state's Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Gov. Tim Walz added "workers who install and support the installation of docks, boat lifts and other water-related equipment and boat delivery" to the set of services and businesses that are exempt from his stay-home order during the coronavirus outbreak.

The stay-at-home order, which was announced in late March and extended on April 8, is now set to expire on May 4.

The addition of dockworkers to the list followed pushback by lake communities and from several politicians after dock installers were left off of a second edition of the list of essential workers.

Melissa Turtinen is the community editor for Lakeshore Weekly News and Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about adding context to stories and informing people about what's going on in their community. She enjoys being outside, traveling and good beer.

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