By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Winsted Lake has become a city treasure offering scenic beauty and providing many recreational opportunities to the area as a result of the efforts of the Winsted Lake Watershed Association.
The lake association’s mission, “to provide a leadership role in improving and protecting the quality of Winsted Lake and the watershed for present and future generations,” has its members continually evaluating the needs of the lake, its shoreline, and watershed to achieve its goals.
The 376-acre lake, which is 12 feet deep, supports a healthy fish population of northern, crappie, perch, sunfish, largemouth bass, bullheads, catfish, and carp.
In the spring of 2011, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stocked the lake with approximately 376,000 walleye fry, according to Bev Schmitz, lake association president. The DNR will stock the lake again in 2013, and again in 2015, if it sees a successful growth in the fish population.
The lake association members never seem to be lacking in projects, activities, or volunteers, who appear with enthusiasm and lots of energy to lend a helping hand. Many times, a fundraiser will accompany a project to defray the cost.
The past few months have been especially busy with several major lake projects that have been completed in a very short amount of time.
Lake association members began by reintroducing native plants to Winsted Lake. Because of urban and rural water runoff, the lake has lost most of its native plants, according to Schmitz. With approval granted by the DNR, the lake association planted 70 softstem bulrush roots in three different locations in Winsted Lake this spring.
Native plants have the ability to help improve the water quality, help support a fish habitat, and also reduces shoreline erosion by reducing the force of the waves.
While some plants provide a healthy lake ecosystem, others, like the curly leaf pondweed, which is considered an invasive weed, can inhibit recreation, travel, and fishing.
The lake association noticed the weed in Winsted Lake in 2005, but the DNR wouldn’t allow it to be treated until 2008, Schmitz said.
Chemical treatments done to the lake in 2008, 2009, and 2010 were successful, according to a recent survey completed by the DNR, which showed just a sparse growth of curly leaf pondweed in the spring of 2011.
To date, $49,000 has been spent to treat the lake to control the spread of this invasive species. In a three-year period of treatment, the lake association spent $21,100, the city of Winsted spent $20,000, and Winsted shoreland owners spent $8,400.
The lake association will continue to monitor the presence of curly leaf pondweed and take appropriate action as needed.
Another project that was completed this spring was replacing the 25-year-old aerator motor. The new motor was custom fit to the unit by lake association member Dave Mochinski.
The aerator is used during the winter months to keep the ice on the lake open, which increases the oxygen level for fish and aquatic life, according to Mochinski.
This year, the aerator will also run during summer months to keep the swimming area clear of algae.
With a plant sale fundraiser, which took place in May, and matching supplemental funds from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, the lake association was able to raise $1,000 for the cost of the new motor.
Because Mochinski did the work, he was able to save the lake association between $2,000 and $3,000 on the aerator.
Another $300 is still needed to make repairs on a back-up motor.
Rain gardens have been on the Winsted Lake association’s list of priorities for the lake. Its members realize the importance of the gardens in keeping nutrients and sediment out of the lake from water runoff.
In 2008, the lake association members scheduled a workshop to educate residents on how to plant a rain garden, and last year many lake association members volunteered to replant the rain gardens along the promenade, because many of the plants previously planted there had died.
Striving to maintain and improve the rain gardens by Winsted City Hall, and along the lakefront promenade and Mill Reserve Park, lake association member Petie Littfin has started a garden club.
Anyone interested in joining should call Petie Littfin at (320) 485-2477.
Consider joining Winsted Lake Watershed Assoc.
Annual membership is $25 and is tax deductible.
Monthly meetings are at 7 p.m., the first Monday of the month in the Vollmer Room in Winsted City Hall.
The association currently has 102 members.
A lake association member will be contacting all residents of the city in the near future, conducting a membership drive.
Current officers are:
• President Bev Schmitz
• Vice President Yvonne Maus
• Treasurer Leah Schwartzrock
• Secretary Gary Daigle