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Continued: Despite complaints, Lake Minnetonka's Cruiser's Cove still a warm-weather hot spot

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 17, 2013 - 10:30 PM

“It became unmanageable,” Jabbour said. “You couldn’t get a toothpick through the boats.”

Jabbour, a former Orono mayor, might as well be the unofficial mayor of Big Island. He works to preserve and clean the island, to undo shoreline erosion damage from the wake of large boats. From his marina across the bay, he said the noise isn’t a major problem, just “an annoyance” that he likens to Minneapolis’ Warehouse District erupting with crowds on weekend nights.

Loud and plowed

For some Big Island cabin residents, however, the club-like cove has worn their patience.

Uran and her husband, John, avoid going to their cabin on weekends because the bass thumping about 500 feet away rattles their windows and makes sitting in their back yard unbearable, she said. The Excelsior couple told the Orono City Council in 2008 that they were trying to sell the cabin but that the noisy cove scared off prospective buyers.

“It’s unbelievable,” John Uran said. “The noise, the people taking a leak over the side … every year it just gets worse. You wouldn’t believe what goes on.”

His daughter, Jody Laughlin, 54, of Excelsior, also has a cabin on the island and says that after officers respond to noise complaints, noise just ramps back up. The lines of buoys, she argues, form a “welcome mat” for rowdy partyers.

“Everyone knows that’s a party zone,” she said. “You come out here to put your feet up … it’s heaven. And then all of a sudden, bam, bam, bam. [The bass music and noise] doesn’t stop. … It wears on you.”

Accepted way of life

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said his department has increased enforcement and training over the years, patrolling the county’s waters aggressively with 35 volunteer deputies and 10 licensed personnel. The DNR also has two boats on the lake.

“It’s like policing a little city,” Stanek said. “There’s nonstop people — everyone wants to enjoy the water.”

The county started patrolling the lake in 1955 after 18 people died there, part of a grim trend of double-digit water-related deaths. Since then, yearly drownings have remained in the single digits and boating accidents have declined.

In 1988, 190 boating accidents were reported. By 2002, that was down to 39 and last year, it was eight. Over the past five years, accidents, BWIs and boating citations have all remained relatively stable, according to the county.

And while boats have gotten bigger, the number of boats has dropped. At the DNR’s last count in 2009, the average number of boats on Lake Minnetonka on weekends fell to fewer than 1,000, down from about 1,400 in 1986.

Noise remains an issue, but “it’s part of lake living,” said Dick Osgood, executive director of the Lake Minnetonka Association. “It’s improved over 10 years ago.”

On the other side of Big Island, Bonnie Menigo of Pine City is annoyed by the trash partyers leave — she’s spent years snorkeling the cove to collect garbage bags full of beer cans, shoes, even underwear — but she prefers that parties stay concentrated there instead of across the lake. If not for Cruiser’s Cove, the partyers would be on the island or elsewhere on the lake, she said.

“People have to have a place to party,” said Menigo, whose family has had a cabin on Big Island since 1900. And “it’s only at night it turns into a party place.”

Added Block, the DNR officer, “Everyone who visits the lake knows what’s happening out there.”

  • related content

  • A group of friends enjoyed the water on Friday. Cruiser’s Cove fills with boaters and partyers every weekend.

  • Leah Kinn, of Excelsior, took in the sights — and a beverage — in the cove. Lake Minnetonka is the state’s most-heavily used lake.

  • Boats frequently jam closely together in the cove — not unlike tailgate parties at football games. The weekend party scene still is strong, said DNR Lt. Adam Block, but it isn’t as bad as it has been in years past. Said Bob Beutler of Minnetonka Beach: “I think the reputation is worse than the reality.”

  • Hennepin County water patrol deputy Adam Hernke stopped boaters Roberts Krebs, center, of Maple Grove, and George Mackereth, of Minneapolis, to check for infractions.

  • Peter Kinn, left, of Excelsior, enjoyed Cruiser’s Cove with friends. “Lake Minnetonka is no doubt special,” he said. “It’s a big party scene.”

  • Lake Minnetonka BY THE NUMBERS

    Boating While Intoxicated

    2008 2010 2012 2013*

    76 53 89 29

    Boating accidents

    7 14 8 14

    Boating citations

    597 479 394 107

    *2013 data through June

    Source: Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office

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