Hope floats at LakeFest
I must disclose that I have a personal interest in the subject matter of this month’s column. I am on the board of directors of the New Hampshire Lakes Association. On this coming Sunday, Aug. 3, N.H. Lakes is hosting its second annual LakeFest on Lake Winnipesaukee. I didn’t go last year (I wasn’t on the board yet and had other plans), but this Sunday I am borrowing my mother-in-law’s kayak and heading to Weirs Beach in Laconia. This year, NH Lakes will again attempt to set a world record for the largest free-standing raft of kayaks and canoes. If you are still looking for something fun to do this weekend, keep reading.
LakeFest is about more than trying to have as many kayakers and canoeists as possible holding on to each other for one glorious, record-setting moment. The purpose of LakeFest is to draw attention to the spread of invasive aquatic species in our lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. Invasive plants such as variable milfoil are already in many of our lakes, and we are trying to keep animals such as zebra mussels from invading New Hampshire. Considering how important water is to New Hampshire’s tourism economy and culture, these threats cannot be overstated or underestimated.
One of the most important programs administered by N.H. Lakes is the Lake Host program. Every summer, hundreds of paid and volunteer lake hosts perform courtesy inspections of trailers and motorboats entering or leaving the water at boat ramps. Since 2002, there have been almost 1,500 instances in which lake hosts have found and removed an invasive plant or animal from a boat or trailer.
These “saves” are important because once an aquatic invasive takes root in a waterbody, it may be impossible to ever completely get rid of the interloper. Variable milfoil can be controlled with divers and herbicides, but these efforts will be required every year into the indefinite future. An ever-growing number of New Hampshire municipalities have resigned themselves to an annual budget expense in the tens of thousands of dollars to control milfoil. These towns have little choice, as milfoil crowds out native plants and, if left unchecked, can turn a beautiful, healthy pond into an unpleasant place for swimming or boating.
Through LakeFest, NH Lakes seeks to raise awareness of how to properly clean, drain, and dry your boat between outings, and to raise awareness that canoes and kayaks can also spread invasive species. Motorboats are not the only culprits.
LakeFest will be fun. I plan to paddle around the lake, listen to live music, and eat festival food. There will also be art and activities for kids.
Ordinarily, I would not recommend leaving the Monadnock Region to go to Weirs Beach on a summer Sunday. Once in a while, though, it can be fun — kind of like the honky-tonk of Hampton Beach. I’m going, and I hope you will, too. Put the canoe on the car Saturday night, get up early on Sunday (boat drop begins at 7 a.m.), and just do it. After all, you probably haven’t been to Lake Winnipesaukee recently. Get all of the information and register at lakefest.wordpress.com.
If you don’t go to LakeFest, you should consider becoming a member of N.H. Lakes. Individual and family memberships begin at $50. Also, keep an eye out for invasive species and please clean, dry, and drain your boat between uses. If you do find something on your boat or in the lake that you suspect is an invasive plant or animal, please contact Amy Smagula at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. Amy is the coordinator of the Exotic Species Program and will quickly help you identify the species and take appropriate action if necessary.
Enjoy the rest of summer.
Jason Reimers is an attorney with BCM Environmental & Land Law, PLLC, in Concord, and a member of the Board of Directors of the New Hampshire Lakes Association.