Local News

Residents along Lake June concerned about spread of weed

LAKE PLACID - After having lived on Lake June for 30 years, Sandy Pelski doesn't hesitate to sing praises about her community. "We love the people," Pelski said Thursday. "We love the area. We love the lake." But what Pelski and quite a few other residents don't love these days is the green, slimy, tangly, pond weed that has taken over their dock areas, almost like the blob that covered property in the science fiction movies of decades ago. Pelski, who is well known in the community as one of the vice presidents of the Toby the Clown Foundation, wasn't laughing when she described the problems she has faced since June.
"Our white sandy beach area has turned green and slimy," she said, adding in three decades she's never had such a problem. Peggy Gray, another resident near the lake, said she's lived there 27 years and has never seen the weed take over like that. "We're not like some of our neighbors who have moved in and don't know the difference," Gray said. She said it discourages her grandchildren from wanting to come and get into the water. The complaints of residents have prompted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to set up a community meeting Aug. 28 from 10 a.m. to noon at the H.L. Bishop Park. Kelle Sullivan, a regional biologist for the commission's Invasive Plant and Management Section, said the pond weed, referred to as Illinois pond weed by some, is natural to the lake and in some respects benefits the ecology of the lake. It is good for fishing and benefits bass and ducks and supplies nutrients to the lake environment, she added. At the same time, she said, she understands the concerns of residents who do recreational activities on the lake. "Like with most things there's a good and not-so-good side to them," she said. "We really need to find some way to manage the pond weed in the lake that is good for everyone involved," Sullivan said. She said she hopes that the meeting brings about a solution that benefits everyone. The reason for the sudden rapid growth of pond weed remains elusive, Sullivan said. But, she suggested that the heavy rains have contributed to the situation. "It (pond weed) is responding to something in the lake that made it favorable for the pond weed in the lake to expand," Sullivan said. She also said that the pond weed expansion may be cyclical. Whatever the reason, Peslki and Gray, who say they've talked with many other residents, say the weeds clog pathways out into the middle of the lake, choke up engines of personal water craft and present a possible danger to those who swim and may get tangled up in it. The residents also are unhappy about the lack of help they are getting from the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission, which so far has only agreed to deal with the weed when it affects public boat ramp areas. While the public ramps benefit in many cases people who don't live in the area, Pelski said the residents pay high taxes and aren't seeing a return. Sullivan said residents can get free permits to use certain herbicides to kill the weed in their dock areas. But, Gray said, the chemicals may cost several hundred dollars and it may grow back if adjacent property owners, some of whom are a seasonal residents or infrequent visitors, don't do the same. She said she believes at any rate the state is sending a mixed message. "They're telling us it's beneficial," she said. "On the other hand, they say we can get a free permit to get rid of it." Pelski said it's a case of the wrong plan growing so fast. "I wish our good grass would grow that fast," she said.