Lake Minnetonka's rowdy party scene prompts public safety meeting

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Hennepin County officials were kept busy over the holiday weekend, responding to dozens of calls on one of the Twin Cities' most popular lakes.

Law enforcement officials responded to 75 calls on Lake Minnetonka over the weekend, including 17 that involved alcohol-related medical calls (many of whom were so intoxicated they needed medical treatment and to be transferred to detox), the Lakeshore Weekly News reports.

However, there were no fatalities reported on the lake over the weekend, and just one serious injury: A 42-year-old man was hospitalized with a serious spinal cord injury after he dove into the shallow water on Cruiser's Cove, the paper notes.

Officials say the high number of emergency calls is due to irresponsible alcohol consumption and the warm weather, which drew a larger crowd to the lake, the Star Tribune reports.

The increase in emergency calls is worrisome to local officials concerned about the dangers of the alcohol-infused party scene on Lake Minnetonka. It's a go-to destination for many boaters on Saturdays during the summer, but becomes even more popular on the Fourth of July, as boats flock to Big Island and Cruiser’s Cove – a floating party scene that resembles a tailgate for a football game. The island has even drawn Kim Kardashian to its festivities.

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The party scene on the lake – which has been scrutinized for years – is becoming even more of a concern as local leaders worry there aren't enough patrols to monitor underage drinking and intoxicated boating, the Star Tribune says.

This prompted the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District to call a special meeting for Thursday to review public safety issues that have occurred during the boating season, including this past weekend, the group's website says.

Drunken boating also a problem

Lake Minnetonka is one of the most troublesome lakes, with DNR coordinator Debbie Munson Badini telling BringMeTheNews that "without question" the majority of boating while intoxicated charges (BWIs) in the state come from Lake Minnetonka.

In fact, of the 25 BWIs reported to the DNR this boating season (this includes BWIs written by the DNR and other law enforcement officials), 20 of those were issued to boat operators on Lake Minnetonka, Badini says.

The DNR issued four BWIs over the holiday weekend across all lakes, and expects to get more reports from local law enforcement officials in the coming weeks, Badini says.

Although the number of BWIs issued in the state is trending downward, Badini says drunken boating is still a concern, noting the dangers of drinking and boating are not exclusive to the boat operator.

DNR statistics show that over the past five years, 42.8 percent of fatal boating accidents involved alcohol, with the data showing that non-fatal boating accidents are much less likely to involve alcohol than fatal incidents.

There was one reported fatality over the holiday weekend when a woman was flung from a boat on Cass Lake in Beltrami County and died. Officials suspect the driver of the boat was drunk at the time of the accident.

The 2015 boating season has seen five reported fatalities, however information on those that were alcohol-related is not yet available, Badini notes.

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