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Lake weed battle rages on



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POWER BOAT RACERS Ryan Burdick, John Hoffman and a mound of weeds, one of several such piles that have been pulled out of Pell Lake recently.

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June 05, 2012 | 01:29 PM
BLOOMFIELD — The soggy green mounds along Pell Lake Beach are becoming a familiar sight.

Each afternoon, people are raking weeds ashore and operating watercraft designed to help remove what some are calling the "Pell Lake salad."

The weed overgrowth is stalling the comeback of a popular event. They were blamed for the cancellation of the Badger State Outboard Association's power boat races, which originally were scheduled last weekend.

But local boat racing fans shouldn't worry. On Monday night, the Bloomfield Village Board allowed the association to reschedule the race for Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24.

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"For some reason, our boat racers really love this lake," said Kip Trumpulis, race organizer, during a phone interview Friday. "They love the people, and after the first year we had (the races), we got such a good reception."

That was in 2009, when, despite initial concerns, the event was successful enough to return in 2010. But in August 2011, the amount of weeds in the lake prompted the races to be cancelled.

"By August, those weeds were just as bad as they are now," Trumpulis said.

He said they couldn't find a weed harvester fast enough to keep the races on schedule last year. However, about a month ago, one of the association racers bought one for about $1,500, Trumpulis said.

Now, the association is taking on a new challenge — lake weed removal. "We are totally inexperienced with weed removal, but usually, the towns we go to take care of their lakes," Trumpulis said. "We thought we could (remove Pell Lake's weeds) in three or four weeks."

Turns out they were wrong. "This has been a big learning curve for our club," Trumpulis said.

Drama

It's not just the association which has become entangled in Pell Lake's weed overgrowth.

Residents have complained about it to the Bloomfield Village Board. In May, Village President Ken Monroe said he's looking into the idea of establishing a lake management district — a separate entity which could oversee the lake — and other methods of weed control.

It's a money issue. According to Monroe, purchasing a heavy-duty weed harvester would cost about $250,000. As such, traditionally, Bloomfield hasn't handled the weed removal duties. That was done by a volunteer group called the Mud Hens, which formed in the 1990s. On the phone Thursday, May 31, Ted Lightfield, of the Mud Hens, said the death of Mud Hens founder Scott Haldeman, the economy and a desire by several members to receive compensation for their weed removal efforts ultimately led to what he called "a big hiatus" for the group.

With no one cutting and an early spring, the tops of weeds in Pell Lake crested the surface by May.

On the phone and in e-mails, Trumpulis seemed stressed, but positive and determined despite the obstacles he has encountered.

First, there was the decision he said was difficult to make — rescheduling the race. Originally, Trumpulis said he wanted to reschedule the races for this weekend. He said it would give volunteers more time to remove the weeds from Pell Lake.

Monroe said police and fire/EMS department personnel weren't available to cover the event this weekend.

Trumpulis said this could affect the total number of races who attend. He said 76 racers would have attended if the races occurred this weekend, but now, he expects about 50 to show up for the June 23-24 event.

At a $25 registration fee per racer, the association may take a hit if 26 less racers attend, he said.

"That's how we offset our costs, that and sponsors," Trumpulis said.

But his problems could have been larger. Apparently, volunteers were so focused on their weed removal attempt they forgot to obtain a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources.

"I received a call from the DNR about it and they were pretty upset," Monroe said. "They were cutting without a permit."

Trumpulis said they were "uneducated" about the weed removal process.

However, the Mud Hens helped the association sort out this problem. Lightfield said they purchased a permit from the DNR for the association.

Trumpulis said when he went to obtain it, the DNR gave him a training session which lasted about five hours. "It was basically Seaweed 101," Trumpulis said.

Now, they're using a one-man weed cutter and a boat fabricated with a rake to push weeds ashore.

Out of the lake, onto the shore

Armed with a permit and some tools, the missing ingredient Trumpulis said he hopes improves in time for the June 23-24 race dates is volunteerism.

"I'm trying to get the word out," he said. "If you love this lake so much, come out and help us."

Trumpulis said more volunteers are showing up, including racers from Waukesha, Delavan, East Troy "and even a few from Chicago's west suburbs."

"Today, there was a mom with a 5-year-old girl grabbing weeds by hand and throwing them to the shoreline," he stated in a June 3 e-mail. "Throughout the day, folks were coming by, helping for an hour, maybe two. Everything helps, you know?"

He said the association and Steel Horse Saloon, North Lake Shore Drive, are providing refreshments for volunteers.

Trumpulis also said it would be great if other local businesses could donate "funds, soda or water over the next three weeks of our weed-fest operations." People who want to volunteer can contact Steel Horse Saloon, he said.

It appears, despite Trumpulis stating his back is so sore he can hardly walk, he isn't giving up on his boat racing dreams.

"My goal here was to make this a community event," he said. "I would absolutely love to see the village (officials) participate in it. I guess my big fantasy is to have a carnival and a big tent and stuff to go along with the races."

Is that realistic? Trumpulis said he thought it was until the hiatus of the Mud Hens, the group he said was the reason they started running the races in Pell Lake back in 2009. But for now, Trumpulis shared another of his dreams.

"If we can get the (village) to help with the lake somewhat we could have big races once a year and make this a big community event."

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