Be Safe and Enjoy the Holiday

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

I don’t know where the time is going, but suddenly July 4th is just a few days away. I blame it on my time management skills, or maybe it’s just age. Regardless, the Independence Day holiday is probably the busiest time at area lakes and camp grounds and definitely the highest boating traffic weekend of the summer. Of course, GLSM boating popularity isn’t quite as heavy as it once was before our water quality issues, but compared to the catastrophic summer of 2010, watercraft usage has rebounded dramatically. On any given weekend, pontoon boats are everywhere, personal watercraft (whatever you call them today) flit around, a few classic runabouts can be seen checking the sites, and sailboats are the lake’s beauty mark during the day. In plain words, we might not match Indian Lake in boating pressure, but what we have is significant and constantly growing. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing because Indian Lake can be scary, especially if you happen to be on the water after dark.

As far as camping at Lake St. Marys, the state park facility is constantly full and very popular. Not only is the campground well maintained providing all of the amenities, but the recent addition of the swimming pool and splash pad have been the icing on the cake. Water quality might have put the damper on swimming in the lake, but the new west beach swimming area might change that. Unfortunately, the project won’t be finished by July 4th because of the unusual amount of rain we had this year. Sand is starting to be moved, and other than some cosmetics, all that is needed is electricity to run the bubblers and maintain the air barrier at the lakeside entrance. There are various opinions floating around about this project, but no matter what yours might be, I’m betting that the area will become one of the most popular spots on the lake. Too many people have good memories of the old 2nd Beach, and the younger crowd will no doubt start making memories of their own.

In terms of water quality, so far this year we’ve had other issues to deal with besides our algae problems. High water has caused a lot of damage and heavy silt has colored most of the lake a light chocolate brown. There have been a lot of concerns about the heavy run-off causing another massive toxic algae bloom, but that hasn’t happened so far. In the channels I’ve been in, there are some masses of green stuff that have caused a bit of alarm. What I’ve seen is duckweed. That’s good green stuff that actually helps clean the water.

The major concern for the boating crowd is the amount of floating and semi-submerged trash that was washed into the lake from all of the flooding. I know some large trees and branches have been pulled from the lake, but I’m sure there are more. I’ve also heard reports of picnic tables, other furniture, and maybe a gas grill or two winding up in the lake. Keep a sharp eye and try to keep you, your passengers, and your boat safe.

Fireworks will be displayed at both St. Marys and Indian Lakes over the July 4th weekend. The greatest seats available for watching fireworks are from a boat. That’s fine, but the heavier the boaters are concentrated, the greater the chance of problems occurring. A little common sense can help insure a fun evening. First, pay attention to the weather. Storms can pop up any time of the day, especially during the hot summer months. Depending on conditions, a large number of boats making a mad dash for cover can create problems. In rough weather conditions, it’s smart to wear a life jacket. Actually, it doesn’t hurt to have them on or readily available any time you’re under power.

Many boaters like to party on the water. A BUI is involved in one-third of all recreational boating fatalities. Again, use good judgment. For those who don’t, and there will be some, be prepared to suffer the consequences. From what I understand, there has been a greater presence of enforcement personnel on GLSM this summer. I’m assuming the same has taken place at Indian Lake. This number will increase as more personnel are hired into the ODNR. For example, the Division of Parks and Watercraft is currently looking to fill 18 natural resources officer positions. That addition is needed.

Finally, next week and weekend will be a busy one around the area’s lakes, beaches, and campgrounds. Enjoy the facilities, take care, enjoy yourselves, and get home safely.