HARRISON — Ashley Carlton has been inspecting the undersides of boats for the past three summers and this is the first year she’s seen a decline in the number of crafts going into Long Lake.

“I used to get 80 boats every day,” said Carlton as she relaxed in a beach chair with an attached umbrella for shade. “During the week there’s only about five boats a day,” she said. On the weekends there may be as many as 20 boats entering the water at Harrison Marina.

Carlton said she believes it’s because of the economy. “There are less and less boats,” she said.

The Harrison woman checks the boats for milfoil before they enter the lake. She’s paid by the Bridgton-based Lakes Environmental Association.

Most boaters are grateful for the inspections, she said.

Roberta Scruggs, the association’s membership and community outreach person, agreed. “Most are pretty into the program” of courtesy inspections, she said. “We trained 55 (boat inspectors) this year, paid and volunteers.”

In addition, the LEA has six washing stations in southern and central Maine that have helped reduce the invasive plants from getting into the lakes.

While Long Lake has yet to see any milfoil in its waters, Thompson Lake took out 20 tons of the invasive plants last year. According to information from LEA, in addition to the milfoil found in the Otisfield section of Thompson Lake, milfoil or other invasive plants have been pulled off boats in Sebago Lake in Casco and Raymond, and Lovewell Pond in Fryeburg.

Statewide courtesy boat inspections have risen from 2,848 in 2001 to 49,064 in 2008.

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Ashley Carlton’s job as a courtesy boat inspector has not been too busy this summer with fewer boats going into Long Lake in Harrison, she said.

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