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Lake Mitchell boat ramp project slammed at meeting

Members of the public and the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee meet Tuesday in the conference room at the Mitchell Recreation Center to discuss a proposed improvement to the Sportsmen's boat ramp area of Lake Mitchell. The improvement would threaten some mature trees, which has caused some people to oppose the project. (Chris Huber/Republic)

About 30 people provided public input to the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee Tuesday, and most of them clearly stated a desire for improved water quality instead of a new boat launch near the Sportsmen's Club.

There were not enough board members present for a quorum at the 4 p.m. meeting at the Recreation Center, so no official action could be taken. But a group of concerned citizens voiced worries about a boat launch proposal to Parks and Recreation Director Dusty Rodiek and committee members Joe Kippes, Bob Sebert and John McLeod.

The project would relocate the ramp access area that is just east of the Sportsmen's Club. The access area would be relocated from the east side of the inlet to the west side, a double lane concrete boat ramp would be installed, a paved lot would be added with space for about 30 boat trailers, and an access loop would be built to ease the loading and unloading of boats. The site would also have access to the existing sewer and water lines from the nearby Sportsmen's Club. Opponents to the project are concerned about some mature trees that would have to be removed.

The meeting remained cordial but the conversation turned into a sounding board on many problems or issues regarding the lake.

Tammy Wheeler brought a mason jar green with lake water and presented photos taken July 4. She wants the city to preserve the habitat that is currently located around the lake and feels the parking lot currently used for the Sportsmen's ramp could be retained, if paved and lined for trailer spaces. She also mentioned the trees.

"These trees are important," Wheeler said. "I would just urge the committee to reconsider and take into account what needs to be done to protect our local habitats," Wheeler said.

Kippes, leading the meeting for the absent chairman Mark Puetz, said the committee has went through tough discussions about the trees near the lake.

"I'm not a guy who wants to pull trees out," Kippes said. "We have some difficult discussions on what should and shouldn't be done with habitat around the lake, and it's a discussion we have to continue to have."

Wheeler was among many who want trees to be saved, but there was disagreement about whether or not the trees contribute to the algae levels in the lake and to what extent.

Cemetery and Golf Course Director Kevin Thurman informed the group how leaves from trees contain phosphorus that affect the water quality in the lake. Thurman said the lake is going through a natural process of stratification, in which the lake separates into layers.

He said thinning out the trees near the lake would be natural for the lake's well-being.

"There have been numerous studies on this subject and it's a problem that is occurring all over the country," Thurman said. "[Project opponents] are talking about clear cutting trees, and that's not the case. They aren't doing justice to the project. [The city] is working to make Lake Mitchell better."

A few residents questioned the effectiveness of the SolarBee and the city's efforts to reduce blue-green algae in the lake, and why the device was not installed before June.

Rodiek agreed that the device has to go in sooner for the lake to feel more of an effect but said the city might be in need of volunteers to take regular samples of the algae, so it can be monitored better. Kippes said after the flooding of each of the last two years, most people didn't notice the algae issues on Lake Mitchell. Other issues discussed at the meeting included trying to get more boaters to use the West End boat launch and how to fix current capacity issues at the Sportsmen's boat launch, possibly by adding signage.

Mike Kuchera said he is not for the Sportsmen's project and said the priority should remain on cleaning up the water in Lake Mitchell. "Fix the water first," Kuchera said.. The boat launch can wait. Just focus on the lake."