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Windermere residents weigh in on Bird Island controversy

Mayor says bird sanctuary has turned into party destination

WINDERMERE, Fla. – Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn will be addressing residents and town council members Tuesday evening about what he has discovered they can and cannot do when it comes to people partying along a small island in the middle of Lake Butler that the locals call Bird Island.

The island is a private island protected by the Audubon Society and has become a bird sanctuary where pelicans and other birds have chosen to build their nests. 

News 6 spoke with two residents who have different opinions on what they think should be done.

Paul Gerding has lived in Windermere for 30 years and said visitors need to be a little more respectful of the island and the people living near it.

"It's not just the noise, it's the trash," Gerding said. "It's just a lot of rudeness too."

Couert Vorhees has lived in Windermere 20 years. He said he remembers being younger and partying around the island, and said it should still be open to all to enjoy. But he agrees people need to be respectful and clean up after themselves.

"I don't think closing Bird Island or making a whole bunch of new rules is the answer," Vorhees said. "If you continue to abuse it, chances are it won't be around here for other generations, they won't be able to come out here at all."

Bruhn said in April, locals had an Earth Day cleanup on Bird Island and filled 25 large bags with trash. He said littering is just out of control nowadays.

"We have situations where people are coming from 50 to hundreds of miles away to party," Bruhn said.

Bruhn said he is also concerned there is a safety issue to be worried about as well.  Bruhn said he's seen people swimming from the docks to the island and people on jet skis are speeding by. Bruhn said he's concerned someone is going to get hurt or even killed on the island or surrounding waters.