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Community removes invasive weeds

DETROIT LAKES - Thinking 20 volunteers would be a success, organizers were more than pleased when 50 volunteers showed up Friday, Sept. 19, to help remove flowering rush along the Detroit Lakes city beach area.

"We had a broad, cross-section of the community down there," Bruce Imholte said. He added that there were business people, senior citizens, families with kids, Chamber representatives and others.

People came out dressed in everything from flip-flops and shorts to chest waders. The weather cooperated and volunteers were happy to help clear the beach.

"Logistically, I think it went very well," said Leslie George of the Department of Natural Resources. "I think from both sides of it, from our standpoint as well as the volunteers, we all have some ideas of if this happens in the future, things we can do differently or better. But overall, I think everybody was happy with the way it went,"

Imholte said he got behind the effort after reading a letter to the editor Mary Beth Gilsdorf had written about the flowering rush taking over the lakes and city beach, and that something needed to be done about it. Imholte decided to see how much support he could find if given the opportunity to remove the invasive weed.

He said there were three points he wanted to see with the Crush the Rush effort. For one, he wanted to find out the level of concern within the community about the flowering rush taking over the lakes. He found people were very concerned.

Next, he wanted to get the word out about flowering rush and publicize what it was doing to the lakes. That was also accomplished.

Lastly, Imholte said he wanted to remove the flowering rush -- a task he said volunteers weren't fully allowed to do.

Imholte and his wife, Ginny, applied for the DNR permit to remove the rush along the beach area. Leading up to the Crush the Rush event though, the DNR hadn't granted the permit because it needed the city's backing since it was the city beach.

Thursday morning, a meeting was held that included Crush the Rush organizers, city staff, Pelican River Watershed District representatives and a representative from the DNR. It was agreed that the mayor would send a letter of support to the DNR and the DNR would grant a permit for a space of 275 feet east of the J&K Marina and 20 feet out into the lake.

That space, Imholte said, was not located on the right portion of land he had intended with the permit application.

"They did not let us do the swimming beach area," he said.

The Imholtes had intended to clean the swimming beach area, but instead did the majority of the waters by the marina. The 275 feet ended just before a swimming beach area buoy.

George said the permit requested the area around the J&K Marina dock. "It actually requested 400 feet long. That was on both sides of the dock.

"From Detroit Lakes fisheries local staff input, we knew that the one side to the east was more often used for public swim area, so that was justifiable and that was then the area that we permitted. because it was something that would potentially be publicly used. So we did reduce the permit area slightly to 275 feet and just focused on the side that was occasionally used for public swimming," she said.

Besides not getting to remove the rush in the areas intended, Imholte said the issue that bothered him most was when two armed DNR officers showed up at the event.

"It offended me they had to have enforcement to patrol volunteer citizens," he said.

That aside, Imholte said the limited area volunteers were allowed to remove rush from wasn't enough.

"I believe the DNR set this group up for failure."

With all the volunteer manpower, Imholte said there would have definitely been time to remove more rush. He said his intention with the swimming beach area was to compare the test site to the other side of J&K Marina where the rush is thick. He added that since the volunteers were only allowed out 20 feet, "we did not get anywhere near where it was thickest."

The permit was "our only chance to get down there" to clear the weeds, but the DNR stopped volunteers from effectively clearing the area.

During the Crush the Rush event, volunteers were taught the right way to remove rush by the DNR, which Imholte said was great.

"I can't say enough about the community members," Imholte said. People showed up throughout the afternoon, ready and willing to help.

The event, if it proves to be successful next spring in clearing flowering rush, will hopefully happen again in the future, Imholte said.

"We would like it to. The question is, what will be the DNR stance?"

"As far as results, and control of the flowering rush aspect of how did it go, that's something we're all going to take a look at next spring, and then go from there with future decision making," George said.

She added that the DNR is not ruling out the possibility of doing another removal session in the future. "This was a learning opportunity for everybody, and we're going to re-evaluate in the spring and go from there."