Party-goers raise more than $165,000 to improve Green Lake’s water quality

Gala guests and long-time GLA supporters, Larry and Victoria Gundrum, participate in the event’s pillar project appeal to support major lake initiatives. Together, guests donated more than $165,000 toward major lake initiatives to protect and restore Green Lake’s water quality. submitted photo

by Alison Niescier

For the Green Lake Association’s (GLA) executive director, Green Lake’s water quality challenges are personal.

“I love that many of your Green Lake stories begin something like this: ‘My parents dipped me in Green Lake when I was just a few months old,’” remarked Stephanie Prellwitz, as she addressed a sold-out gala audience on Saturday, Aug. 4.

“But when my husband and I took our new daughter, Charlotte, to the lake for the first time this summer, a concerning thought crossed my mind as I held her above the water: ‘Is it safe to put her in here?’”

Prellwitz reminded gala attendees that toxic blue-green algae blooms have closed beaches across the state this summer. While Green Lake has not been part of this infamous list, its weed and algae problems are part of the same lake degradation process.

“One thing is clear: Green Lake’s water quality is not what it once was,” she said. “And if our conservation efforts don’t outpace the lake’s water-quality decline, we too could face the realities of waking up to a toxic lake.”

That was the message at the GLA’s ninth annual gala, Prohibition Party, held at the Shoreline Boat Center Showroom in Green Lake.

In response, guests generously donated more than $165,000 in support of three pillar projects aimed at 1. collaborating with local farmers, 2. restoring degraded streams and battling the harmful pollutants in them, and 3. defending Big Green’s waters against invasive species.

These initiatives include, among others: restoring 5,700 feet of degraded streambank on Dakin Creek and restocking the creek with brook trout, an indicator of clean water; installing a network of demonstration farms; continuing the aggressive removal of invasive carp; and installing two decontamination stations at public boat launches to prevent additional invasive species from infecting the lake.

“Like all lakes, Green Lake has a delicate ecological balance. On one side is the clean, clear lake that our great-grandparents tell stories about. On the other side of that balance is what neighboring lakes like Little Green Lake and Lake Mendota have been experiencing this year,” Prellwitz said as she referenced toxic algae blooms and new invasive species plaguing lakes throughout Wisconsin.

There are big challenges ahead for Green Lake, but the GLA and its lake-management partners are working at an unprecedented pace to tip the scale toward a restored lake for current and future generations. A long term commitment — and significant future funding — will be required, but with the support of GLA members and the Green Lake community, these challenges can be met.

“I can’t emphasize enough what an exciting time it is to be part of this community. The GLA and our partners are doing some amazing things, and people across the state are starting to take note,” Prellwitz said.

“So back at the lake, as I’m holding Charlotte above the water, I was reminded of what an incredible lake we have and the inspiring progress we’re making towards improving its water quality. And, slowly, at five months old, I lowered her into Green Lake for the first time. And I felt confident that, with our collective efforts, Charlotte will have a clean lake to dip her children into one day as well.”

The event was possible in part because of its 15 sponsors including:

> Platinum sponsors ($10,000): Havey Communications/Mike and Jill Havey, Jerry and Judy Specht, Gold Eagle Corp., makers of 303 and STA-BIL products;

> Gold sponsors ($5,000): Gary and Lynn Mecklenburg;

> Silver sponsors ($2,500): Joe and Tina Pregont and David and Kathleen Cullen;

> Bronze sponsors ($1,000): Graham-Saravis Families, Green Lake Cold-Water Fishery Council, Dick and Linda Martens, McClone Insurance, Bill and Patty Miner, Outdoor Impact, Special Properties and TranzAct Technologies, Inc.

Alison Niescier is the project manager for the Green Lake Association, a local not-for-profit that works to improve water quality for Green Lake.