Is the boat party over at Lake Butler Bird Island? – Orlando Sentinel

Orange County commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to create a ‘vessel exclusion zone’ in Lake Butler, prohibiting boats from approaching within 80 feet of the shoreline of a managed bird sanctuary by Audubon which has become a popular weekend party spot.

Despite the vote, it’s unclear how long – if ever – the weekend and holiday hype will end in the island’s sandy shallows.

“It’s not a solution to everything,” said Gary Bruhn, who spent 15 years as mayor of Windermere seeking a solution to the rowdy, booze-fueled festivities that have become so rowdy. that some real estate agents won’t show millions of dollars. weekend lakeside properties. “But it’s a foot in the door. When you talk about enforcement, if you don’t have a law, how are you going to enforce it? »

Although “no trespassing” signs are posted on the 10-acre island, anyone who can access the shallows has a right to be there.

The new rule cannot prevent boaters from anchoring outside the area and swimming to the area where vessels were bringing them.

But many avid boaters said they disagreed with the rule, saying it favored good swimmers and able-bodied people and especially prevented those with young children, disabled family members or elderly people aboard their ships to take advantage of the shallow waters.

latest news

As it happens

Be the first to know with email alerts on the latest important news from the Orlando Sentinel Newsroom.

Others urged commissioners to reject the rule, arguing it failed to address contributing factors, including the prevalence of alcohol and the crowds of fast, loud, rented watercraft that enter the chain of lakes via ramps. boat launch owned by the county.

Audubon, Windermere officials and lakeside residents applauded the decision.

“I’ve had a front-row view of the island for almost 60 years,” said Thellie Roper, whose house on Second Avenue in Windermere faces an uninhabited wildlife sanctuary, also known as Egret Island. “I can’t even sit on my porch, the noise is so loud… It’s a bird sanctuary, by the way, not a disco.”

Before Orange County built public boat ramps on the Butler Chain of Lakes, flocks of egrets, great blue herons, osprey and other wading birds, numbering in the thousands, nests in the cypress trees on the island and fed their young with fish they caught in the lakes.

Audubon officials claimed boaters used the island as a restroom, and loud music thinned flocks of nesting birds.

While it’s unclear whether the county could install buoys marking the area in time for Memorial Day, Orange County Sheriff’s Maj. Stephen Garrison promised “a significant presence” of law enforcement during holidays, considered the start of the summer boating season.

[email protected]

Comments are closed.