Sleek, white sails cascade through the wind and the sun glistens on the horizon, as five students coast their sailboats gracefully across Lake Baldwin.
Only one sound can be heard in the distance — dogs barking.
“They’re very noisy, and it’s very distracting when you are trying to sail,” said Penny Potter, vice president and instructor of the Central Florida Community Sailing Program. “I don’t care for them.”
The Sailing Club of Central Florida provides a three-week course that is 20 hours of classroom and on-the-water instruction, covering all the basics of sailing. It is run out of Fleet Peeples Park, where they hold events, races and instruction.
Although sailing club members are grateful to the city of Winter Park for the shared use of the park, some are not excited about sharing the lake with the dogs and its facilities with their owners.
“The restroom building is in the off-leash area, and the instructors and students have been approached by dog people saying … you have to have a dog in order to use the building,” Potter said. “These people are out of control.”
She also said she does not enjoy walking through dog waste that is not always picked up, or dealing with dogs that are not always supervised. “It is more than an inconvenience,” Potter said.
But Secretary of Fleet Peeples Park Sandy Womble said sharing the park has not been a problem.
“I don’t have any problem with them being there, and I don’t think any of the dog people do either,” Womble said. “The only problem I have is with the ones who constantly criticize us.”
She also said there are very few people who have complained about the dogs at the park, and the small few who have, she believes, are just not dog people, who have separate agendas for the park.
Derrick McQuern and his wife, Tara Young, enjoy bringing their three dogs to the park on the weekends.
And although McQuern said he has seen some irresponsible dog owners that don’t pick up after their dogs, he has noticed there are a lot of dog owners who do go out of their way to help clean up the park. “The majority of people do pick up and are responsible,” McQueen said. “This is probably the best dog park in the state of Florida.”
Sailing Club student Amanda Forbes also said she has no problems sharing the park with the dogs and their owners.
“I think the dog park is great,” she said. “They kind of keep to themselves, and we keep to ourselves.”
The park offers a separate area for the club to use for instruction outside of the gated dog area, and the city of Winter Park provides a compound for the club to store the boats used for the course.
Winter Park Director of Communications Clarissa Howard said the club was approved by the City Commission in 1999.
“It was successful for several years (in Orlando) and then it relocated,” she said.
Then in 2008, the Club requested a renewed agreement with the city for the use of Fleet Peeples Park. The Parks and Recreation Commission approved the proposal for the Sailing Club to offer classes in the park between February and November.
The registration fees are $145 with 20 percent of the revenue going to the city. The city has received about $1,200 to date.
The Sailing Club of Central Florida was established in 1975 with the help of the Red Cross. It is a nonprofit organization run by volunteers to provide the skills to others so that they will one day sail the open water on their own.
For more information on the Sailing Club of Central Florida, visit www.thesailingclub.us.