Many balk at park locale
Julie Roach leads a group of paddle boarders away from the sandy shore of Fort Maitland Park and into the open waters of Lake Maitland at sunrise or sunset three days a week.
She wades in, paddles out and stands up ready to welcome a new day, or close out the present one with a session of on-water yoga, or “H2Yo.”
“It’s a beautiful park,” she says, “I’d hate to see that taken away.”
The three-and-a-half-acre park across from Lake Lily is home to the only public access point in Maitland to the Winter Park Chain of Lakes, offering a boat ramp, two docks and small shoreline. And if the city decides to move forward with a contract signed in February, it will also be home to the city’s first and only police boathouse.
The contract, approved by the Maitland City Council on Feb. 27, approves $91,000 to be spent on capital improvements to replace the existing boat ramp and docks, and at the same time, build the enclosed boathouse on the park’s shoreline, partially funded by police forfeiture dollars.
But after residents such as Roach and members of the Parks Department voiced concerns over access and view of the lakefront if the boathouse was in the park, the location of the boathouse was back up for discussion at the June 11 City Council meeting.
“If we put the police boathouse here it will never go away,” resident Glen Jaffee said. “I understand it’s a good idea to have a boathouse for safety reasons, but we’ll never be able to get this park back.”
Public Works Director Rick Lemke presented a second location option for the boathouse, located within eyeshot of the original, where the city’s original public access site to Lake Maitland stood at the dead-end of Live Oak Street behind SoNapa Grille. It now serves as an area for stormwater runoff.
Deciding to build here instead, Lemke said, would put the city’s current signed contract at risk, and also could cost an estimated $15,000 to $20,000 more in construction. But it would also leave the shoreline of Fort Maitland alone for public access.
“It’s more of an economic decision at this point,” Lemke said.
Sgt. Louis Grindle, public information officer for the Maitland Police Department, said the location of the boathouse is not an issue — only that it gets built somewhere.
“We don’t care where it’s built — we’re just looking to have lake access in case of an emergency,” he said.
After rough drafts of the plans for each location were presented to the Council, the members overwhelmingly agreed that Live Oak seemed to be a better fit for the boathouse, if the financials could be managed.
“I’m sensitive to cost, as it’s in budget season, but I’m more sensitive to the long-run impact on the utilization of the boat ramp by the citizens,” Councilman Phil Bonus said.
“Even with the more capital cost at front, for the benefit of the citizens and use of the park, [the boathouse] would be better over at Live Oak,” Councilwoman Linda Frosch added.
City Attorney Cliff Shepard warned the city to look into the financial ramifications of canceling the current contract if they decide to swap locations. Mayor Howard Schieferdecker said the city will need to look more closely at both options before moving forward again with final plans. The item is up for more discussion and a decision at the Council’s June 25 meeting.
Residents Roach and Jaffee say the extra cost is worth a lifetime of enjoyment at the park.
“It’s an added expense,” Jaffee said, “but it would be a short-sighted thing to do to not find the expense…. I hope that we can find the money so that we can move the boathouse to another location to keep open the opportunities Maitland has for the enjoyment of its lakefront properties.”