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Holiday Weekend Is Party Time At Elliot Key

MIAMI (CBS4) – It's been described by some as a Mardi Gras on the water.

The Columbus Day weekend party scene at Biscayne Bay National Park has become a major concern for law enforcement and park officials.

"To be quite honest with you, I think that the party has gotten out of hand," said Officer Jorge Pino, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Thousands of people congregate at Elliot Key in a small stretch of water to drink and dance on boats. Some exchange beads for flashes. Nudity is commonplace and at times so are public displays of sexual interaction.

"There's no law that prevents people from being naked," said Pino. "However there are several laws that prevent people from behaving in a lewd and lascivious manner. You can not commit lewd and lascivious acts and we can all imagine what those are."

Every year law enforcement officials arrest at least 25 out of control boaters partying on the water.

Every year, they said someone is seriously injured or dies because of bad boating behavior.

Yet Stephen and Daphne Lopez come out every year.

"Everyone is having a good time, we're all partying," said Daphne Lopez.

Authorities from a variety of agencies were out in full force patrolling the water. Park Rangers from Biscayne National Park were also out there concerned about the environmental damage the event is having on the water and wildlife.

"People are enjoying balloons, beads, having a good time," said Christiana Adiraf, a park ranger.
"But they need to be mindful that the party isn't downtown. The party is in a national park and it's happening on top of fragile sea grass habitats and those balloons and those beads, if they end up in the water can end up strangling and choking the wildlife."

Park Rangers said they took video of the underwater habitats before this weekend's big boat party and they plan to compare that to the scene underwater post-party. They also plan to analyze the water for contamination issues.

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