Thursday, December 3, 2009

A tale of two lakes

Lake Mendota, with Wisconsin state capitol in rear

Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, is famous for its lakes.  But while they look great on post cards, the reality is not so nice.  Recently, Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources has been trying to revise the shoreland zoning rules--with much controversy.  Business groups are howling that property owners are going to lose their property rights. 

L. Mendota: shoreland development, and muddy runoff from a storm

We should start a "Sister Lakes" organization, because the two lakes have a lot to teach one another. Lake Mendota has slipped a long way down that road towards senility (eutrophication), while Hawksnest is still young and pristine. So Hawksnest can teach people in Wisconsin what pure water is like, and how to get there.

Hawksnest is so pure you can see right to the bottom from a canoe. When I was a kid living on its shore, I could drink the water as I swam. And yet it was warm enough for comfortable swimming. You'd come back from a swim cleaner than you went in (now a radical idea in Wisconsin). The bottom is sandy, not mucky--there are no weeds to tangle your legs.

That's why I'm a crusader for water quality. I've experienced pure water, and I can't forget what it's like.

Shore vegetation and sandy soil filter water going into Hawksnest

And what does Lake Mendota have to teach Hawksnest?

Sadly, it's a warning. People who visit Hawksnest are oblivious to its rare value, take it for granted, and are hell-bent on abusing till it becomes just like Lake Mendota.

If Hawksnest could give some sisterly advice to Mendota, she would say: "Look at my shore. Everywhere it's clothed in vegetation. Not a drop of rainwater gets into my body--unless if falls on my face, or flows through the ground, or flows through my "skin" of shoreland plants. I need my shoreland zone. Puncture that, and I'll start to die."

A pond starting to die?  Off-highway vehicle abuse at Hawksnest.

Click here for more about water problems of Lake Mendota and Madison, WI.

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