Hollywood’s North and South Lakes have long been devoted to water-skiers, sailors, and others who take advantage of the stunning water views.
The inlets, just off Hollywood Boulevard, open into the Intracoastal Waterway, allowing water access to Fort Lauderdale and the open ocean. South Lake is deeper, allowing larger boats than North Lake.
"We are jet-skiers, water-skiers, sailors using the lake for recreational elements since we moved here over 20 years ago," South Lake resident Rick Legow tells New Times. "We love the beauty [of the lake] and the water-sports that we use it for."
However, in recent years, the lakes have attracted rundown boats. Many stay for days and months free of charge. Homeowners say the eyesores disrupt their lives.
"It's kind of like if your neighborhood park turned into a trailer park. One night, people woke me up having a party [on a boat] at 2 a.m. It sounded like they were on my lawn," North Lake resident David Salz says. "They may have been — by law — far enough, but they were so loud.
Now a debate has arisen about the best way to limit anchorage and make the inlets safer. The City of Hollywood has proposed installing floating buoys where visitors could moor their boats, which critics say will draw more visitors and create hazards for jet-skiers and others.
"When you put those buoys — it's very dangerous — [it's] hard to see them when going at a certain speed," South Lake resident Scott Singer tells New Times. "We believe it is going to cause major accidents."
Salz is also concerned about the plan. He grew up in the Lakes area, where he spent much of his time on the water. But when he moved back to North Lake this past March, he couldn’t believe the number of boats in the lake.
"It was kind of shocking to see a ton of boats anchoring there overnight — I was not used to that in the past," Salz says. "I grew up using the lakes for water-skiing and sailing, but now it is not possible to sail properly since boats are in the way and it’s a small area to begin with."
For years, the Nova Southeastern University women's rowing team has trained for races in the lakes, but recently, the team's training area has shrunk significantly because of anchored boats.
"It has impacted us for the past three years [with the] 200 percent increase in the number of boats parked," NSU rowing coach Devin Fay tells New Times. "We have a good long stretch of water, but recently, it has been less helpful for us because it is now two-thirds of the length. We had 100 percent access, but now 30 percent is gone."
The boats have also ruined homeowners' picture-perfect views.
"I bought a house that had an unobstructed water view, but now I have a view of a junkyard of 12 dilapidated boats," South Lake resident Michael Quarequio says. "These are extensions of our front yards. We bought these properties to enjoy the lake and the sports, and with these boats, it's almost impossible."
The residents also claim the boats pose environmental and navigational hazards.
"Some are in poor condition — clearly are not maintained — no lights on them at night," Legow says. "They cause pollution since [the owners] are not managing them to make sure their waste tanks are being dumped out properly. It's dangerous — a navigational hazard and a toxic problem."
Since 2017, the City of Hollywood has been considering the installation of mooring fields. Boaters would no longer have to drop anchor, but they would have to pay a fee to stay in the lake overnight.
"The city is definitely aware that there is an issue with vessels that come in and park in South Lake, North Lake, and portions of the Intracoastal Waterway," city spokesperson Joann Hussey says. "It’s a two-fold approach we are taking on trying to assist with the residents."
In September, the city applied for a $300,000 grant that would allow for the installation of mooring fields in both lakes. There would be 12 spots in North Lake and eight in South Lake. But the city must wait until the fall to hear if the grant was approved.
"One of the benefits of having a mooring field is that it limits the amount of vessels that are able to go in, and it's a designated area. Because it’s a designated area, there are specific requirements that go into play," Hussey says. "They can be inspected, we know who is staying there, we know what they are doing with their trash, and we know who is coming and going. When it is a known person, there are contact numbers, so if there is music or a loud disturbance, we know who we're talking to when policing the area."
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But Legow says adding mooring fields would only exacerbate the problem. "We are very unhappy that our sailing, water-skiing, and tubing areas have been taken over, but more upset with the solution to restoring them. The city wants to put in more mooring fields to keep the unwanted boats out and turn it into a virtual RV park... [This might] end up pushing the boating problem to the fringes [of the lakes], ending up with mooring fields and unwanted boats."
Hussey says Hollywood plans to lobby the Florida Legislature to designate both lakes recreational areas, which would prohibit anchoring. But it can take years for any sort of state action."The residents, from what we have heard, would prefer the designation as a recreation zone as opposed to mooring fields, but it's an uphill climb with the state Legislature," she says. "It took many years for Fort Lauderdale to get a lake by Galleria Mall designated to be a recreational area."
Residents think the city could act more aggressively, claiming ownership of the lakes and immediately banning anchorage.
"As soon as you put in these mooring fields, you put the final nail in the coffin of designating this area what it was supposed to be — a recreational area. Even if there is not a boat attached [to a mooring], you limit the ability of it ever being a recreational area," Quarequio says. "Frustrating thing, it's so close. The statute is there and it’s the perfect situation, [but] for some reason our elected officials cannot get it done. We are the constituents, the ones who voted you in. Why can't we get these things done?"