For Minnesotans planning to take their Fourth of July festivities to the waterways again this year – and in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, who isn’t? – new safety measures have been instituted for Lake Minnetonka by the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District (LMCD). The Minnetonka community’s hope is to ensure a safer 2016 celebration than what transpired last year.

July 4, 2015 = Big problems for Lake Minnetonka water patrol

Last year, Lake Minnetonka hit full capacity, marking one of the biggest turnouts the lake has seen. A large number of boats, tied together in clusters just off the coastline of Big Island and Cruisers Cove, with swimmers crowding the water in between, made it difficult for water patrol to maneuver through the waters to reach people in need of help.

Of the 73 calls for help water patrol responded to over the course of the day, alcohol was involved in 17 of them. Alcohol-related rowdiness, and a general lack of courtesy, just made the situation worse. By the time water patrol was able to reach two of the callers, they were already in serious condition. Read Kare 11’s report here.

New Lake Minnetonka Safety Measures 2016

Following last year’s fiasco, the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District was quick to act, meeting several times to determine how to best avoid similar situations from happening again.

Here’s what you can expect to be different this year:

There will be at least one water lane designated for emergency responders only – no pedestrian boaters allowed
Previously, water patrol had to rely on private businesses to secure different locations to station their boats. Now there will be a permanent location in the lower lake off Big Island that allows quick and easy access to those in need of emergency services
This year there will be 5-6 additional boats on standby to respond to calls for help, including some from the fire department. Additionally, police will oversee the event from on land
Red Bull, a contributing factor in the distribution of alcohol in 2015, will not be present this year

Although the Lake Minnetonka community wants everyone to have a good time, they also want people to demonstrate responsibility. “It’s not about how you operate your boat, it’s about how you operate yourself,” says Jim Brimeyer, Interim Executive Director of the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District.

Learn more about the rules and regulations for Lake Minnetonka during summer 2016 here.