Thursday, June 27, 2013

TITLE WHAT PRICE SAFETY? A WATERWORKS Column by Gordon Prickett for the 7/3/2013 Aitkin Independent Age. Every year drowning victims are reported in the news - starting before ice-out until a solid freeze-up state-wide. One of the best safety posters I have ever seen shows two enlarged pieces of fishing tackle. On one side is a Bobber and on the other a Sinker, with the word "OR" between them. Near the bottom of the poster is the command "WEAR YOUR LIFE JACKET!" It is one of the DNR’s better messages. I thought about that poster early last week shortly after sunrise as I saw two guys standing in a small fishing boat with large outboard motor, speeding from the public landing. It’s now the time when loon chicks have just come from the nest, and they are vulnerable to speedboats and other quicker predators. We have three nesting pairs of loons on our lake which is only 400 acres in area, less than a mile across it. This was a concern a week ago when a brand new neighbor brought two jetskis to the lake, and his kids and guests displayed no knowledge of the restrictions on these watercraft. Like "slow, no-wake speeds until 150 feet from shore." Some lake people have complained that nobody can estimate such distances. Maybe they have never seen the 50-yard-line on a football field. The jetski can speed up when it gets to the goal line. Each yard is three feet. (old math) Boating safety becomes a major concern on summer Saturdays when every type of watercraft is afloat. Canoes, kayaks, and sailboats, dodge among power boats towing wake boarders or their tiny tots hanging onto rafts. And some of us are quietly fishing. As boat traffic increases, now that a very short spring has left us and summer is here, I just hope that all of these fragile bodies have life jacket protection.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

TITLE - LEARNING AT THE LAKE - A WATERWORKS Column for the Aitkin Independent Age, June 5, 2013. Before settlement a hundred and fifty years ago our lake country was pristine, the pines and hardwoods had not yet been clear cut. Shorelines of the lakes and rivers were natural. Bands of the Dakota and Ojibwe people had lived many years in the region without impacting the wildlife and forests. Today our children are being given an environmental education, and older folks can learn how to make a smaller footprint beside our beautiful waters. On Saturday, June 15th, at Rippleside School in Aitkin, from 9 am to 2 pm, the 17th Annual Aitkin County Rivers and Lakes Fair will be celebrated. We will learn about beaver, the floods of 2012, aquatic life, and bats, to name just some of the topics. Stop by our ACLARA booth for an exhibit about the 20 lake associations that make up our coalition. If you live by a lake without an active association we have outreach workers to lend a hand. When new folks buy lake property or families inherit the cabin in which they have grown up, there is a lot learn about: individual sewage treatment systems, water wells, fire regulations, seasonal road restrictions, limits on impervious surfaces, private road funds for grading and snow plowing, and watercraft and dock regulations. At least four state and county agencies have something to tell you about your life at the lake. A good place to look for answers is our Rivers and Lakes Fair. The many booths in the Rippleside gym will inform you about what is new up here. There are classroom programs and hands-on activities for all ages. FISH STICKS The DNR Fisheries Division wants you to leave the trees that fall into the water at the shoreline. No need to clear away branches or trunks. In fact, these trees enhance the fish habitat along the shore. Shelter and shade provided by this downed timber makes a place where the population can grow. Once again we can regain some of the natural aspect of our lakes.