Maitland Police boathouse to finally take float

Maitlanders looking for wet fun will have to head to Winter Park as dock work goes on.

Maitlanders looking for wet fun will have to head to Winter Park as dock work goes on.

Sarah Wilson

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Fort Maitland Park’s lakefront is getting a makeover this month, adding the city’s first and only police boathouse and redoing the boat ramp and dock, resulting in restricted public lake access until mid-April.

Two years after plans were proposed to build the police boathouse using the Maitland Police Department’s forfeiture funds, construction is scheduled to start March 31.

Deputy Police Chief Bill McEachnie said the boathouse will drastically cut down on police response time to calls for service on the lake. If a service call comes in today, officers have to hook up the police boat to a trailer and drive it from the Keller Road station to the Fort Maitland Park lakefront to respond, which has led to residents filling in for police and settling situations before officers could even get on the water.

“We’ve had several service calls where, luckily, citizens have assisted before we could get there … It’s going to be a great advantage to us to have a permanently docked presence in the water,” McEachnie said.

Once construction on the boathouse and dock replacement begins, public access to Lake Maitland and the Chain of Lakes will be cut off from Fort Maitland Park – forcing those looking to hit the water to do so at Dinky Dock Park on Lake Virginia in Winter Park, said Maitland Public Works Director Rick Lemke.

That includes locals who run businesses from the lakeside, such as Julie Roach of H2YO who regularly teaches paddleboard lessons from Fort Maitland Park. Roach, who opposed placing the boathouse on the lakefront in fear of it blocking beach access, said she and others who usually launch on Lake Maitland will have to switch up locations until construction is complete.

Roach said she and other paddleboarders hope to approach the city with the idea of cleaning up and opening the nearby overgrown beach area at the end of Live Oak Boulevard next to the Moorings as additional non-motorized lake access to make up for lost lake frontage at the park.

The park, along with the new boat ramp and police boathouse, are expected to reopen in time for prime boating season as the weather begins to warm up as spring gets into full-swing, McEachnie said.

“We want people to enjoy our lakes,” McEachnie said, “we just want them to do it safely.”