Lake Minnetonka is a geological marvel made notorious by its location on the western side of our huge metropolitan area. It has been challenged by curly-leaf pondweed, purple loosestrife and Eurasian milfoil, by zebra mussels and libidinous Vikings players relieving themselves near shore after a boat trip.
As recently as the long Fourth of July weekend of 2019, a section of the lake could not survive the debauchery and toilet needs of youthful partygoers with boats tied together by the score near Big Island.
E. coli was discovered in the water, leading Mike Osterholm, Minnesota’s expert and conscience on such matters, to cite the “Big Island experience” as the very probable source.
There is so much to Lake Minnetonka, so many nooks, that it is not all palatial tear-downs and privileged young adults tearing around in speedboats. There are still neighborhoods with modest homes, still “lake kids” familiar with fierce contests of skipping flat rocks across water for distance.
“There are 41 bays and 125 miles of lake shore,” Billy Olson said. “It’s an amazing lake. It has everything.”
Olson has been the manager at Howard’s Point Marina for the past six years. There are a dozen-plus marinas on Lake Minnetonka and none can be more neighborhoodly than this one.
Modest though it is in size, Howard’s Point has a geographical advantage in the marina business with its southern location in Minnetonka’s Upper Lake. “We do well at the gas pump when the lake gets busy in the summer,” Olson said.
You take the Eureka Road exit off Hwy. 7, make a couple of turns, find Howard’s Point Road, see the older homes of modest size that would fit perfectly on 5,000 smaller lakes in outstate Minnesota, and suddenly this smallish marina arrives.
“It’s a neighborhood treasure,” Marty Davis said. “That’s why I bought it.”
Davis’ interests include being owner, president and CEO of Cambria. He has a very palatial tear-down of his previous lake home a mile from the marina.
Dock space and a small store have been at this location since 1926. Jim and Rita Kehoe were the owners for a decade starting in the mid-1960s.
The nearby residents renting slips and storing boats saw the increased development in the Upper Lake. Marty Seipp, an attorney, put together a group of 25 families and approached the Kehoes. The purchase was made in 1977 and the name was changed to Howard’s Point Marina.
John and Susan Stinchfield lived a half-mile down the road. Susan was the youngest shareholder at age 24. Four decades later, the group of owners had grown small, real estate developers eyeing the marina’s land across the road for housing, with private dockage as an incentive.
“I didn’t want to sell, but if that was going to happen, I wanted to have the best chance to keep it a neighborhood marina,” Susan said.
She knew of Davis’ interest in doing that. He bought it and, three years later, the traditions of Howard’s Point Marina remain. Primarily recreation boats in the slips; fishing boats and pontoons for rent; and a busy gas pump.
“Crappies have been hot,” Olson said, and now there’s a cold-weather walleye opener on Saturday.
Olson grew up just down the road, getting bait and candy bars for his crappie fishing here starting at age 6. Buck Buskerud still runs the dock crew, as he has for two decades.
There will be 40 Minnetonka kids (mostly teenagers) working here — and quickly aware of the legend of Buck, who spent 15 months of his youth in the jungles of Vietnam in Army recon.
Anna Grace Bricker, seller of bait, candy and microwaved sandwiches and supervisor of sales as a high school junior, was asked for the scouting report she gets from the docks.
She smiled and said: “Buck does not put up with mistakes.”
Older siblings work at Howard’s Point, and they are often followed by the younger ones. Mason Blasing, 17, is one of those, a neighborhood kid and now a supervisor among the dock crew.
“Kids that grow up on a lake definitely are different,” Davis said. “They can put in a dock, get a motor started, bait a hook, tie up a boat. First time I met Mason, he was 11. He asked me, ‘Mr. Davis, is it OK if I tie my boat to your slip?’
“It was an old fishing boat, a 13-footer maybe, with a tiller motor, and he was getting bait. I said, ‘Sure,’ but then I called his mom, asking if Mason should be heading out on the lake in that boat.
“She said, ‘It’s OK. His dad had Mason on the lake since he was born.’ ”
His father, Jon, died unexpectedly in 2016 at 49. Mr. Blasing passed away having raised “lake kids,” fishermen, rock skippers — the kind that still can be found on the metro area’s weird wonder of water.
Write to Patrick Reusse by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and including his name in the subject line.