“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.”