Glen Lake Association protects our inland water

GlenLakeAssociationFrom staff reports

When you consider the Glen Lakes as a national treasure, all you need to do is travel to other parts of the country and compare. The pristine water quality of Big and Little Glen Lakes along with the protected shorelines, natural hillsides, turquoise water, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore being the largest riparian on the lake, it is hard to find a more unique and beautiful lake in the country. Furthermore, this national treasure should be protected so as to keep it in a natural and pristine condition, now and for future generations.

As word travels from coast to coast that the Glen Lakes and the surrounding area is the most beautiful place in America, the human tendency can be to “love it to death”. Human impact on water quality can be both beneficial and harmful. Ironically, to correct any harmful impact to the water requires human effort, wisdom and finances. One example of positive human impact on the lakes is the Glen Lake Association (GLA). With more than 60 volunteers and several committees that monitor everything from water levels to water quality, this organizations impact is vast. The mission of the GLA is to preserve and protect the water of the Glen Lakes watershed, which includes Big Glen, Little Glen, Big Fisher, Little Fisher, Tucker Lake, Brooks Lake, Hatlem Creek and the Crystal River.

Each year the GLA biologist log nearly 500 hours. A significant portion of their time and energy is also spent reducing swimmers itch. Protecting water quality requires time, energy and financial resources. In 2004, the GLA hired watershed biologist Rob Karner to help spearhead a host of water quality initiatives that involve monitoring, educating the public and promoting clean water. Karner is a freshwater biologist with an M.S. degree from the University of Michigan. He has 36 years of experience working in our watershed and is a riparian landowner on the Crystal River.

The GLA is one of hundreds of lake associations that work together with the Department of Environmental Quality’s Inland Lakes and Streams division. One benefit of being part of this network is the ability to compare our water quality with that of other lakes in the state. This is fostered through the “Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program”. Using standard monitoring methods and equipment and volunteers, the GLA monitors a variety of water quality parameters such as water transparency and levels of pollution. We routinely score very well compared to other pristine lakes in our area such as Torch Lake and Crystal Lake.

One of the biggest threats to our watershed is invasive species. Think of invasive species as a form of biological pollution. Generally, an invasive species is an organism that enters into a watershed from far away and quickly spreads or multiplies so that it crowds out a variety of native species. The GLA is currently working on protecting our watershed from the spread of a variety of invaders — both aquatic and terrestrial. The boat wash station at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources boat ramp on Little Glen Lake is one major way we try to protect our water. Last year the station washed nearly 3,000 boats before entering our water. The GLA also performs routine shoreline surveys and remains on the lookout for invaders such as Phragmities and Coldsfoot. If these plants were left to their own devices, it would take as little as five to 10 years for the ecology of the Glen Lakes to make a radical shift and become unrecognizable.

Meanwhile, as lake and river levels fluctuate as our rainfall changes, it is important to make sure that the Glen Lakes maintain a legal level, while also allowing a minimum flow for the vitality of the Crystal River. Plentiful rainfall makes the job straightforward. However, managing water levels can be tricky during drought conditions. The GLA is one of the main players, in conjunction with a court appointed technical committee, to manage the water and protect water quality.

Education is a vital part of protecting our water. With quarterly newsletters that reach nearly 700 riparians, the GLA educates its members on numerous water quality issues, including septic, lawn fertilization, shoreline greenbelts and invasive species. All signage at each road end around the lake also teaches visitors about the threats of invasive species. These road end signs were developed, constructed and installed by the GLA.

One impressive feat of the GLA is its responsibility during the annual M-22 Challenge on Little Glen each spring, which requires coordinating and implementing a temporary boat wash station that serves 800 kayaks in a single morning. Recently, a “school ship” was organized, and kids from the Glen Lake Yacht Club enrolled in a seminar which taught them about the ecology of the Glen Lakes.

Special projects that protect our watershed occasionally come to the forefront. Next spring the GLA will take a leadership role in dredging Hatlem Pond. The pond is nearly full of sediment, and during significant rainfall, sediment is transported directly into the Glen Lakes, making the bottomlands at the mouth of Hatlem Creek more of a muck bottom than a sandy bottom. By dredging the pond, it can once again serve as a settling pond for sediment transport and thereby reduce excessive sedimentation into the south shore of the lakes. This project will cost approximately $200,000.

The GLA’s work requires financial support. Much of the support comes from membership dues, but donations to the endowment fund also help the association with capital expenses and special projects. When measures must be taken to protect our water, organizations like the GLA step up and take charge. As such, the association has been recognized both at the state and national level. So the next time you look at the Glen Lakes, remember that the Glen Lake Association is a dynamic force for preserving and protecting our watershed.

For more information, visit the Glen Lake Association’s homepage at