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.
In the spirit of preserving property rights and property values in the Glen Lake/ Crystal River Watershed, the argument could easily shift to the close connection between property values and water quality. Without high water quality, property values would decline.
In addition to education about how each resident in our watershed can protect our surface and ground water, supplemental zoning can work together with existing zoning to guide future development and protect our water.
A 16-member Watershed Protection Task Force with representatives from all four townships in our watershed is proposing supplemental zoning to protect the future of our water. They strongly believe that the “Overlay District” proposal strikes a balance between effective enforceable water protection without being an over reach on personal property rights.
We hope you will agree and if you feel compelled, contact your township and let them know you support the Overlay District approach to protect your property value and further preserve and protect our water.
A proposed change to an existing state statute regulating the operation of sand and gravel mining operations is being unanimously opposed by the Glen Lake Association.
The change, Senate Bill 431, would restrict regulation by local units of government in the decision-making process for these operations. This bill has raised concerns about water contamination within the watershed.
Edward Lanphier, president of the GLA, noted that sand and gravel sites are by nature large and involve significant disturbance of natural resources.
“Glen Lake is a groundwater-fed lake and we depend on groundwater for our drinking water. And though aware of the importance of county sand and gravel pits to our economy, preempting local oversight of these operations is not in our community’s best interest,” he said.
Senate Bill 431 would limit the discretion of local units of government as it relates to aggregate mining operations and its negative impact on water quality due to runoff and erosion issues; air quality concerns and the remediation of sand and gravel mining sites; and the amount of water usage required during the mining process. Other concerns by opponents to the legislation include hours of operation, the location of haul routes, noise, dust control, traffic safety, and the impact of mining activity on adjacent land uses and property values. All these issues need to be evaluated locally to ensure sand and gravel mining facilities can be operated efficiently, but with minimal disruption to the local community.
The GLA has written a letter of objection to the Senate committee and legislators considering this statute change and is joined by numerous other leading state and civic groups in opposing its passage. They include The Leelanau Conservancy, Sierra Club of Michigan, The Nature Conservancy in Michigan, and Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, to name a few.
Beach sanding is a term which describes a shoreline practice that creates an artificial “sandy beach” in a place where it does not naturally occur.
A recent national study by the Environmental Protection Agency on inland lakes showed that the number one thing that protects lakes from water quality decline is to have natural shorelines. Plants that grow in the buffer zone along the shore absorb harmful nutrients before they get into the water. Making artificial beaches will only stimulate the decline of water quality of Glen Lake over time.
Beach sanding happens either when riparians add sand to their property or they remove shoreline plants in the buffer zone to expose existing sand, or both. The best practice is to not create artificial beaches where they do not naturally occur.
Once an artificial beach has been created, there will be maintenance issues. Erosion of the applied sand may occur and what some consider “weeds” will be a continual challenge to the artificial beach. It is strongly recommended that you NOT apply weed killers to your beach in the attempt to try and control unwanted plant growth.
If you would like to restore your shoreline to its natural state, please contact the Glen Lake Association.
The invasive species yellow iris has spread in the watershed over the past several seasons and the GLA is asking riparians for their help in eradicating the plants. Property owners have been notified and are part of the solution to combat the spread. A group of nine NMC Freshwater Studies Program students are currently working with our GLA interns, assisting with identification, mapping and removal.
The work is focusing on the Fisher Lakes, but plants also can be found on the north and east shores of Big Glen and along the Crystal River. The removal project this season is expected to continue through the first week of October.
Native to Europe, Northern Asia, the Middle East and northern Africa, the yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus) most likely made it’s way to our shores as an ornamental plant. Many landscapers, pond designers and home gardeners choose to include it in their designs for it’s beautiful yellow flowers in bloom from mid June to mid July. It is lovely, in bloom, but problems arise when the seed pods mature, arch over the water, split open and disperse. It can travel far and wide on the waters of our lake, washing into crevices, lodging against berms and taking root. Over time it can create a dense mass, choking out the diversity of native plants that keeps our shores looking like northern Michigan and that keep our local ecosystem healthy.
Observed increasing over last several years by our watershed scientist Rob Karner and invasive plant specialist Laurel Voran. Laurel has been aware of this plant’s agressive nature from her work in the horticultural field and from the experiences of others in our region and nationwide. One person who has been involved with controlling this plant around Portage Lake described his experience like a game of “whack-a-mole” : “At first there were just a few, and then we found it popping up here, there and everywhere!”
This year we have taken efforts to carefully identify and document where yellow iris has taken root. We have done surveys by boat, by foot and by drone to assist in documenting as many current infestation sites as possible using mapping software.
We have removed the seed pods of any plants that flowered this summer to prevent further spread via water currents. (the seedpod stems arch down and can release into the water – spreading far and wide.)
Small infestations have been removed by digging. We are in the process of contacting affected landowners and determining best methods to destroy larger populations.
What you can do:
1: Contact us immediately if you know you have yellow iris and have not already heard from us. Remove any existing seed pods, or give us permission to do so.
2: Pay attention to any iris on your shoreline and let us know if any have yellow blooms next summer.
3: Ideally: Work with us in removing any yellow iris from your shoreline. Minimally: remove and destroy seedpods from yellow iris plants you desire to keep.
4: Do not purchase any yellow iris to plant anywhere on your property. (And- Be aware that yellow iris and our native blue blooming iris (Iris virginica and/or Iris versicolor) are confused in the trade. You may intend to purchase either of the natives, but it may reveal itself to be the yellow iris upon bloom.)
5: If you find this Iris for sale at nurseries or garden centers, ask them to stop selling it.
6: Donate to the GLA to support terrestrial invasive species efforts to help us cover the costs of erradicating it.
7: Educate your friends and neighbors about the threats of this plants, in spite of it’s beauty.
Learn more by watching these informative videos on the subject.