People ask “why can’t the GLA eradicate swimmer’s itch on Glen Lake?” Here are a few reminders as to why:
More than one bird host (common merganser) contributes to the problem. Based on the science, we now know that Canada Geese and Mallards also contribute to the itch. It is simply not possible or legal to live-trap all three species of birds every summer in an attempt to eradicate swimmer’s itch.
We now know that migratory mergansers, geese, and mallards also contribute to the itch. So just live-trapping the “summer resident broods of mergansers” is not sufficient or effective.
We still don’t know what the long term adverse effects, if any, there might be on the Glen Lake ecosystem by a sustained live-trapping program. Removing a top predator like the common merganser year after year may produce unintended consequences that would put the balance of life in our lakes in jeopardy.
By equipping the swimmer with prevention strategies, we can now target our itch reduction techniques where they belong, namely, the swimmer.
The GLA firmly believes that it would be ineffectual and a waste of precious dollars to continue down the path of trying to control, mitigate, or eradicate swimmer’s itch on a lake-wide basis.
50 years of trial and error, plus the latest research have shown our best and most cost-effective defense against Swimmer’s Itch is prevention, not control. What can you do to prevent the itch?
Cover your skin with full body swimwear, a “rash guard” suit (SI rarely affects a person’s hands, feet, and face)
Towel off vigorously after swimming
Swim in the afternoon or early evening vs. morning
Do not swim when an onshore wind is present
Do not swim/wade in shallow water without prevention measures
Install a swim baffle (float) in your swim area to block the itch
Use a parasite skimmer to remove the itch from the surface of the lake
Use a kid friendly wading or “kiddie pool” for small kids vs. swimming near or at the shoreline
Report and Map Swimmer’s Itch
In 2020 the GLA joined a new North American Swimmer’s Itch reporting effort aimed at collecting data to aid in prediction of swimmer’s itch risk, identifying hot spots, and contributing to development of a SI alert network. 46 cases of Swimmer’s Itch were reported around Glen Lake in 2020 using the new system. In 2021, be sure to Map and Report any cases of Swimmer’s Itch using the link on our website and help us build this promising new prevention tool with other lakes across the US and Canada! Swimmer’s Itch | Glen Lake Association
The pandemic may have put our popular onboard Discovery Boat Program on hold summer 2020, but we are back in action for the 2021 Season. Morning and afternoon sessions will be offered all 5 Friday’s in July, Sign up soon, the seats will go quickly!
The Discovery Boat Program provides a hands-on educational opportunity to join watershed biologist Rob Karner and assistant biologists Laura Weisen and Joe Blondia onboard a 22-foot pontoon boat cruise of Glen Lake. The curriculum varies each week and is tailored to the interests of the participants of each session. Topics range from discovering how the lakes, wetlands, streams and surounding hillsides were formed by glaciers, to the chemistry of the water, the biology of the plants and animals, the ecology of how all the parts work together and finally, community partners and political forces at work within our watershed. The life cycle of swimmer’s itch and prevention of it, are also covered.
Each cruise can acomodate up to 8 passengers. Participation is open to anyone 8 years old and up, children must be accompanied by an adult and provide their own life preserver.
Tickets are required to participate. Regular priced tickets for non-GLA members are $25 each. As a special benefit, current GLA Members are invited to enjoy a disounted ticket price of only $15 each. Space is limited and spots fill up quickly, so purchase your tickets at the below link today!
Preserving and protecting our water resources takes multiple partners. One important partner in this watershed wide mission are our local governments. The Glen Lake-Crystal River Watershed boundary cuts across four different townships – Glen Arbor, Empire, Kasson, and Cleveland. If these four townships are true partners in the mission, they will carefully choose and then support the best tools for the job. Picking the right tools and being willing to use them is key to a successful mission.
Education is the primary tool for protecting water but what else can we do? According to the publication “Protecting Michigan’s Inland Lakes: A Toolkit for Local Governments”, Ordinances are another important tool that can help prevent and control water pollution, conserve natural beauty and open space, conserve shore cover, protect wetlands, protect fish spawning areas, protect buildings from flooding, and manage public access to the water.
One local ordinance related tool that has been in use for the past few years is mandatory time of transfer/point of sale well and septic inspection ordinances. We are fortunate to have Glen Arbor, Cleveland and now Empire and nearby Centerville townships all with TOT ordinances on the books with hope that Kasson will someday join the ranks.
Septic Inspection and regular maintennace are vital tools for protecting water quality and public health. Three of our four townships use Inspection ordinances to support this goal.
Overlay Districts represent another way that local governments can safeguard our water resources by defining a geographical area for which a zoning ordinance will apply. Most districts are made up of township boundaries, but water does not obey township or property boundaries. In this case, the district is made up of the watershed – the land surface that drains water into our lakes, streams, and wetlands.
In choosing the Overlay District zoning tool, a variety of carefully selected provisions are being proposed that offer the best protection for protecting water quality by supplementing the existing zoning. Each provision of the Overlay District is written in harmony with existing zoning and the master plan for each township and works to fill gaps in zoning between townships.
The key to the success of a watershed Overlay District is to have all four townships adopt the provisions in the proposed ordinance thereby promoting uniformity and consistency – all for the sake of clean water. We all desire clean water so adopting an Overlay District which compliments the septic ordinances make for two vital tools that will get the job done and allow for significant strides toward protecting the watershed into the future.
More than 100 years ago, European settlers brought the elegant Mute Swan to North America, but the beautiful birds also proved to be aggressive and invasive. By 1855 due to pressures from hunting, loss of habitat and competition from Mute Swans, the native Trumpeter Swans became extinct in Michigan. Fewer than 70 Trumpeter Swans were known to exist in the entire lower 48 by 1933.
By the end of the 20th century the Mute Swan was a fixture of our watershed, the Old Mill Pond, Brooks Lake, Tucker Lake, Fisher Lake, Hatlem Pond, even the Crystal River all had breeding pairs. Imagine seven or eight Mute Swan nests producing four to seven cygnets each year. That’s as many as 50 Mute Swans in our watershed alone! With the invasive Mute Swan population rapidly rising, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources put a plan in place to slowly reduce the Mute Population by oiling eggs in the nest. This plan actually worked! And the Mute Swan Population has been nearly eradicated. But was there hope for a return of the native Trumpeter Swan?
In 2006 Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in partnership with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, released 8 immature Trumpeter Swans in an undisclosed wetland location within the park in hopes of reestablishing a breeding population. Today, these swans and their descendants can be seen in and around the watershed with observations of at least two (and maybe more) nesting pairs on Hatlem Pond and Old Mill Pond. Our watershed isn’t alone in experiencing the successful rebound of the Trumpeter Swan, North American numbers as of 2010 were over 46,000!
So, the next time you are out in our watershed, celebrate the accomplishments of restoring our swan population to its rightful place. If you’re lucky, you might even hear the distinctive namesake call of our native swan. It was a close call, nearly a swan song, for the world’s heaviest bird capable of flight. We are fortunate indeed to still have this unique piece of our environmental orchestra in play!
*Special footnote, our watershed is also a temporary resting/stopping area for Tundra Swans which can be observed during their spring and fall migration on the western shoals of Big Glen numbering in the hundreds!
Being a conductor of an orchestra means you need to get all the musicians and their instruments to be in tune and on the same page. From start to finish, the music needs to harmonize. The Glen Lake/ Crystal River Watershed has within its boundaries four townships—Glen Arbor, Empire, Kasson, and Cleveland. It would be most effective if all four of our local governments were on the same page when it comes to zoning and protecting the water that we all share. Collective uniformity would make zoning more fair and enforcement easier.
A 16-member Watershed Protection Task Force, working hard for more than three years, is now proposing supplemental zoning to protect our ground and surface water within our watershed. This additional zoning is called an Overlay District.
Getting to a point where all four of our townships would embrace this proposal and being on the same page would make water protection consistent and effective. Is this overlay district proposal worth it? Can all four townships harmonize and play it well? Is this the kind of “music” that can be embraced for decades to come?
Put on your headphones and “listen” to the proposal. If you like it, tell your local government officials to “play the music!”
A hands-on experience for incoming water science students proved to be a successful collaboration for GLA and Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. As part of their water studies program requirements, NMC student volunteers launched an innovative invasive species eradication project on Glen Lake this past fall.
The year 2020 will be etched in history for many reasons. But despite the pandemic, chaotic politics and a world turned upside down, there have been bright spots. Among them are two neighboring Leelanau County entities that share like missions and vision: the Glen Lake Association and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SBDNL).
GLA marked 75 years since its founding in 1945 by forward-thinking area residents, followed by the SBDNL’s establishment in 1970 and its celebration of 50 years as part of the National Park Service.
Not surprisingly, both the national park and GLA have experienced challenges over the years as they address the paramount task of preserving and protecting the fragile natural wonders they oversee. Both organizations have adhered to their goals of environmental stewardship. The fact that 40 percent of the Glen Lake/ Crystal River is adjacent to or within the park’s boundaries is another protection, and most acknowledge how different this region would be without the park’s existence.
SBDNL has attracted over 50 million visitors since its founding. The National Park Service is the prime caretaker of the dunes, forests and waters it seeks to preserve while inviting the public to enjoy and not destroy. On the other hand, GLA espouses sound stewardship of their watershed, educating their members, visitors and community, while imparting the fragility of this natural beauty we’re privileged to share.
In the words of retired park ranger, historian and author, Tom VanZoeren, it’s time to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead:
“Abraham Lincoln helped lay the groundwork for the world’s first National Parks—an American invention, said by some to be our country’s best idea.”
Many decades later, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was born of terrible struggle and difficulty. Those who sacrificed their homes deserve our gratitude. Creation of the park—Michigan’s crown jewel—has now paid off many times over.
Glen Lake rests splendidly at the center of our park. For those of us lucky enough to live or visit here, surely it is incumbent that we pass this place on to our grandchildren and their grandchildren, as pure as the place we’ve been privileged to enjoy.
The Glen Lake Association has assumed the mission of caring for this deep blue body of fresh water. We’ve learned much about how to do so in recent decades. In observance of a half-century of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, let’s resolve to redouble our efforts—and leave our children the cleanest, purest, noblest lake and park that we can.
Happy Anniversary to our partner—SBDNL—and best wishes for the next 50 years!
Gaining support for a plan for the future is not easy, especially when the need isn’t apparent.
The Glen Lake/Crystal River Watershed is a case in point.
A casual look around our hills and shorelines suggests that “all is well.”It begs the question: why do we need to plan ahead? Observations around the watershed include: “Why, our water quality is as good as ever. It hasn’t changed much over the last several decades.”
In fact, water quality degradation is often slow and incremental over time. Increased recreational use of our lakes and river, combined with the aging process accelerated by many septic systems (even when they are functioning well), can cause irreversible aging.Our renowned vibrant blue lakes may even turn green. Once they do that, it’s impossible to roll back the clock.
One protection tool that can be used to slow their aging process is to add supplemental zoning focused on protecting our ground and surface water. This supplement zoning is often called an Overlay District.
A three-year, science based process involving the work of multiple community members has resulted in an opportunity to step up efforts to guide future development. As responsible watershed residents, it’s well worth our time to inspect the proposed Glen Lake/Crystal River Watershed Overlay District.
Remember, what we have today is for tomorrow, but only if we plan ahead.
Tamaracks dance in the rain on Brooks Lake. Photo by Rob Karner
Striving to be the best is a challenge that never ends. And though we liken ongoing efforts to protect our Glen Lake/ Crystal River Watershed as among the country’s best, we’re also aware there’s always more we can and should be doing.
For instance, we’ve learned that some watersheds have found additional ways to augment existing zoning by leveraging an “overlay district” to further protect their water. Across the country including in northwest Michigan, overlay districts have been adopted from Vermont to the state of Washington. One example is on nearby Crystal Lake in Benzie County, where the overlay district has been in effect for over 25 years.