Offshore snack-bar idea floated

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 20, 2012 - 12:52 AM

Entrepreneurs want to launch a shop on the water on Lake Minnetonka, but skeptical officials say it would be unsafe for boaters and wildlife.

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The Big Island area on Lake Minnetonka is a popular gathering spot. Entrepreneurs want to sell snacks and supplies directly on the water.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Two young entrepreneurs' plans to sell merchandise from a platform at a popular spot for boaters in Lake Minnetonka seem to be sinking amid a bevy of rules and safety concerns.

Charles Garnaas and Robert Schleider, a pair of 27-year-olds from Eden Prairie, want to open a snack bar to sell pop, ice cream, T-shirts, hats, sunscreen and other merchandise to boaters off Big Island in Lake Minnetonka.

Ordinances prohibit such sales from boats and pontoons, so the duo proposed a temporary non-floating structure and requested a permit from the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District.

Their plan is to tow a 24-by- 8-foot platform to Big Island, drop its legs 5 feet to the lake bottom in a shallow offshore area, and jack the platform up about 5 inches above the water level.

They would sell directly to boaters near Cruiser's Cove, a popular gathering point where hundreds of boats sometimes "raft" or link together on hot summer days.

The platform would operate mainly on weekends and holidays when traffic is greatest, and would be towed back to shore each evening.

According to the proposal, owners would deploy "buoy-like trash bins to encourage recycling and waste removal from the lake," and would donate 10 percent of all sales profits to the conservation district's Save the Lake Fund.

The district, a regional agency that represents cities around the lake, considered the proposal on May 9 and referred it to a committee.

"It's in a holding pattern now," said Greg Nybeck, the district's executive director.

Negative reaction

But Nybeck said the proposal raises "lots of issues" and may also need approval from nearby shoreline property owners.

That means Three Rivers Park District and the city of Orono, which own and manage large parks on Big Island.

John Barten, natural resources director for Three Rivers Park District, said it's not clear exactly where the snack platform would be stationed, but it could be near the district's Arthur Allen Wildlife Sanctuary on the island.

"We just don't think that's appropriate right next to our wildlife sanctuary to have all that boat traffic," Barten said. It could disturb wildlife and increase shoreline erosion.

Barten briefed Three Rivers commissioners about the proposal at their monthly meeting last Thursday.

Commissioner Dale Woodbeck said Cruiser's Cove is one of the most congested places on the lake. "We don't want to be a party to doing anything to increase the amount of activity in that area," he said.

Other commissioners agreed, and directed Barten to send a letter of concern to the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District, which will make the ultimate decision.

Safety issues

The city of Orono also owns a large piece of Big Island, and discussed the matter at its city council meeting last week.

City administrator Jessica Loftus said Orono has made it clear to the conservation district that any commercial near-shore activity would likely conflict with park use.

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office has also commented on the proposal, and said that it represents a hazard. The office's water patrol unit listed concerns about public safety and greater risk of accidents from the daily towing of the platform to the congested area, the structure itself, and the trash buoys.

Nybeck said he has received requests before from people who want to sell goods from floating pontoons, but has turned them all down because boat-to-boat sales are prohibited by ordinance. "If you allow that commercial activity to take place on the lake, you're really opening it up for anybody," he said.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

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