By Tim Douglass

The City of Long Beach will again take action with local law enforcement and public officials to address public safety concerns surrounding an “unofficial lake event” that attracts a flotilla of boats and thousands of people to Bottle Bay on Lake Minnewaska in July, especially during Waterama weekend.

The flotilla, with hundreds of boats and pontoons anchored closely together in the area, has been an attraction for many years, but in recent years it grew significantly in size and has been the scene of near tragedy both on the highways near the lake and on the lake, it was stated at the recent joint meeting of law enforcement, EMS officers and Long Beach officials. 

The flotilla on the lake also attracts a lot of people who until last year tried to park on both sides of N. Ridge Drive, the street that runs behind Minnewaska House Brewing Co. + Grill to Morning Glory Gardens and out to Highway 28.  Those without boats would park on that road and others in the area and walk to the lake, joining hundreds of waders who stand in the shallow, sandy water that is a feature of that area of the lake.

City of Long Beach officials, law enforcement, EMS and MnDOT officials last year addressed the parking issue by posting “no parking” signs along N. Ridge Drive as well as along the entire stretch of Highway 28-29 that travels past Morning Glory Gardens.  It was the first year of that action and it did improve public safety in the area, according to officials at a meeting last week.  

Mike Pfeiffer, mayor of Long Beach, told those at the meeting last Thursday that the city is again committed to doing what it must do to address public safety issues caused by the event.  He said the largest impact is on the weekends of July 4th and Glenwood’s Waterama weekend, which is the last full weekend in July. The event on the lake has caused safety issues in the past, including near drownings and minor consumption as well as dangerous traffic congestion on Highway 28/29, parking issues, pedestrians crossing the highway and walking along the shoulder of the highway.  In addition, the event has caused a lot of litter, noise and other nuisance issues for residents who live in that area.

“We’re not trying to stop the activity on the lake, but the main goal is to improve public safety where we can,” Pfeiffer said.

Some of the methods enforced last year that will be enforced again this year are: no parking order along streets in Long Beach near the area; towing trucks on standby and the Morning Glory Gardens parking lot will be for official vehicles only.  The Pope County Sheriff’s Office may also provide a trailer at Morning Glory Garden manned with officers and or EMS personnel.

MnDot and Long Beach again will partner on an effort to stop people from parking a long Highway 28-29 from Pelican Lake Road to the Minnewaska Area High School.  MnDot has posted “No Parking Anytime” signs along that section and will also provide digital signs  reminding motorists that there is no parking ahead.  The Minnesota State Patrol and area law enforcement agencies will also patrol the area, it was stated.

At a meeting Monday, the City of Long Beach designated “no parking or stopping” for the month of July along the following city streets: North Ridge Drive from Morning Glory Gardens, past Minnewaska House, and to the end of the street; Morning Glory Gardens Parking Lot (reserved for official vehicles); Game Farm Road; Pelican Lake Road (500 ft from Hwy 28/29); and Wye Lift Station.  Signs installed July 1st through August 5, it was stated.

On the water, the Pope County Sheriff’s Department and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will have officers on the lake enforcing boating and consumption laws and a Pope County Mobile Command trailer will be set up near Bottle Bay at Morning Glory Gardens.