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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 1 year ago

Winter Park to install new buoys for lake safety

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City Commissioners hope the 35 buoys will make local lakes safer for residents.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

Winter Park City Commissioners on Monday, Nov. 26, approved the installation of 35 buoys along the shorelines of Lake Maitland, Lake Osceola, Lake Mizell and Lake Virginia.

Leaders hope the new buoys will make the waters safer for swimmers and paddle-boarders.

The decision to place the buoys stemmed from the city having to remove all its existing buoys in its lakes in June after they were deemed out of compliance by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The older buoys were too small and read “no wake zone,” despite not being permitted as regulatory buoys, Public Works Director Troy Attaway said.

Instead of the 70 to 80 buoys the city had before, Winter Park’s lakes now will have 35 compliant “informational” buoys placed along the shores, Attaway said.

“We’re hoping that the visual impact of seeing a buoy there will encourage people to kind of stay out of that area, and if they do go in that area, they’ll go slow,” Attaway said.

Despite there being only about half the buoys there were before, a recommendation from the city’s lakes and waterways advisory board was for even fewer — just one buoy placed at the Dinky Dock swim area to test its effectiveness.

One suggestion from City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper was to involve the residents to see where the buoys should be placed.

“We need to have a public forum where all lakefront property owners are notified — no one has received any notice,” Cooper said. “This impacts people’s property from an aesthetic and an environmental perspective. I would just like to give us the opportunity to broaden the conversation....”

City Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel said choosing to have the 35 buoys recommended by city staff and getting them on the lakes as soon as possible was the obvious decision.

“I want the buoys back as soon as possible,” Sprinkel said. “I have not wavered on that ever since they got taken up. This is all about safety. … There are too many people out there that don’t have a feel for driving a boat and how close they’re getting. I’d like to start with what we’ve got here.”

City Commissioner Greg Seidel agreed the buoys would make a major difference in safety.

“As a father of daughters that do swim in the lake and a wife who paddle-boards — and I paddle-board and kayak in the lake — you do feel safer within the buoys and the skiing boats tend to stay outside of them,” Seidel said. “I’ve seen my share of people that I thought were going to hit me out there on jet skis. … I’m happy to do this and see how it would work.”

In contrast, Mayor Steve Leary said he heard from some residents on the lake who don’t mind the absence of the buoys.

“There are others who say, ‘Listen, they didn’t slow people down in the first place — they were not preventing anything, so I like the lakes to have a nice clean look,’” Leary said.

Ultimately the City Commission voted 5-0 to move forward with the staff’s 35-buoy plan.

Attaway said the new buoys will be taller than the older ones, sitting 36 inches off the water as opposed to a smaller five-gallon jug. 

Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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