Pleasures of living on lake bubble up
Residents say their worries about runoff into Lake Seminole and its popularity for recreation are balanced by tranquil life on its shore.
By MAUREEN BYRNE
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001
[Times photo: Carrie Pratt]
John Pfeifle, an airline pilot who bought his home in 1993, water-skis on Lake Seminole. Pfeifle owns an airplane, a fishing boat, personal watercraft, a catamaran and a canoe.
John Pfeifle wanted to live on the water.
He thought about the beach, but property was expensive and saltwater would mean more upkeep on his boat.
Then it hit him: Lake Seminole.
He had been skiing on the lake for more than 20 years. Why not live there?
In 1993, the airline pilot moved from Largo and bought a four-bedroom house on Harborside Drive in Lakeside Estates, a neighborhood of upscale homes just north of Bryan Dairy Road on the east shore of the lake.
Pfeifle joins thousands of others who live on Lake Seminole in single-family homes, condominiums, mobile home parks and retirement complexes. Some say it's the next best thing to beachfront living. Others say it's better, preferring a home on the lake to one on the gulf.
"I don't like the saltwater," said Olive Lubinski, 90, who moved to her lakefront home in 1968 with her husband, Leo, 93. The couple retired here from Muncie, Ind.
"It just appealed to us," Mrs. Lubinski said of living on the lake. "It was just what we wanted."
Pfeifle, 48, said he enjoys the tranquility the lake offers. "For being in the middle of a super-populated area, there is no doubt about how nice and quiet this place is," he said while watching a roseate spoonbill look for breakfast near the shore. "It's pretty good here."
Mavis Casto, 75, lives in a mobile home park across the water from Pfeifle. Although the two don't know each other, they share a love of the lake.
"It's so peaceful living here," said Mrs. Casto, who moved to Seminole from Ohio 20 years ago. "It's fun watching things like that," she said, pointing to four baby limpkins and their parents searching for food near her dock.
But both Pfeifle and Casto worry about the condition of the lake, which is the second-largest body of water in Pinellas County. Almost 1-million cubic yards of muck cloak its bottom.
The lake was formed in the 1940s when a weir was built across an arm of Boca Ciega Bay, turning what was marsh into a freshwater lake. During the past 50 years, stormwater carrying lawn fertilizer, motor oil, sewage and other harmful chemicals has washed in, clogging the lake bottom with silt and damaging its ecosystem.
County engineers and environmental consultants are working to reverse that trend and make the lake a viable fishery once again. An $11.1-million cleanup plan includes building treatment ponds and pumping the sediment from the 684-acre lake.
[Times photo: Carrie Pratt]
John Pfeifle talks with Julia Burd, 6, center, after she was frightened by an inner tube ride near his house on Lake Seminole. Watching is her older sister, Sara, 7. For being in the middle of a super-populated area, there is no doubt about how nice and quiet this place is, he says of living on the lake.
But the muck doesn't keep Pfeifle out of the lake. Quite the contrary.
Pfeifle, who is single, likes to play on the water. He has a 19-foot ski boat, three personal watercrafts, a canoe, a fishing boat and a 16-foot catamaran.
Plenty of others like to have fun on the lake, too. Lake Seminole Park borders the southeastern shore of the lake. Many of the park's annual 1.3-million visitors bring boats and personal watercrafts.
"It's one of our busiest parks," said Joe Lupardus, assistant director for the Pinellas County Park Department.
When the Lubinskis moved to their home on 86th Avenue in the late 1960s, there wasn't much development around the lake or much activity on the water, Mrs. Lubinski said.
Now, personal watercrafts zoom past the Lubinskis' pontoon. "Lately, it's sort of been kind of hectic, and of course there was that terrible accident," Mrs. Lubinski said.
A May 6 collision killed Maryann Scibelli of St. Petersburg when her personal watercraft crashed into an ultralight plane that had just landed. Pinellas County sheriff's officials concluded that Scibelli, 52, was at fault by creating a dangerous crossing situation and violating ultralight pilot John Tanner's right of way.
In 1994, many Seminole residents breathed a sigh of relief when a bridge over Lake Seminole opened. The span links 102nd Avenue N and Bryan Dairy Road. Before it opened, motorists had to travel south to Park Boulevard or drive north to Ulmerton Road to get around the lake.
Even with the lake's many changes, Mrs. Lubinski said she remains pleased.
"We love it here," she said.
Communities of Seminole