Watershed word of mouth
Resident, students: Water quality perception worse than reality
June 27, 2017
Editor’s note: This story about the Red Cedar River
watershed was written by two UW-Stout professional communication and emerging
media students taught by Associate Professor Kate Edenborg.
By Molly Holper and
Menomonie, Wis. — With the the muddied reputation of the lakes and rivers in
the Menomonie area, some residents do not dare step foot in the water.
to UW-Stout, everyone was saying don’t go in the water; you’ll get sick because
the algae is so terrible,” said Courtney Passon, a senior at University of
Wisconsin-Stout. “I never had the opportunity to go on the lake so I never
residents, however, enjoy regular recreational activities despite the
blue-green algae blooms that can turn the waters green and smelly in the
fish, stand-up paddleboard, canoe, kayak, tube behind our boat, wakeboard,
surf, swim and ice fish,” said John Spartz, a UW-Stout assistant professor and
homeowner on the Red Cedar River. “We do eat the fish too.”
and his family aren’t the only ones who spend their time out on the lake.
neighbor is 83 years old who has been fishing in Lake Menomin his whole life
and has been eating the fish out of Lake Menomin and the Red Cedar,” Spartz
said. “He’s still walking around and still goes fishing four days a week.”
UW-Stout water ski team practices on Lake Menomin. Team member Sarah
Spitzmueller of Lino Lakes, Minn., was not aware of the notion of the unclean
water when she joined the team.
if I did know the water was unclean, I still would have joined the team,”
Spitzmueller said. “The lake I ski on at home is just about the same.”
common idea that the water is unclean is talked about frequently around campus.
did go on the lake with the water ski team and there was some algae,” Passon
said. “I didn’t get sick. I don’t think it’s as bad as people think it is.”
have never had a problem while skiing on the lake,” Spitzmueller said.
“Everyone thinks it’s nasty that we ski in the lake and that it isn’t safe, but
the whole team doesn’t care. We just want to ski.”
perception that the lake is unsafe to use for recreation has been around for more
than 25 years, but why did it start?
you stand on shore where the people who do not have boat access have access,
it’s green and stinks,” Spartz said. “It makes all kinds of sense. If (you)
didn’t have a boat, you can’t just walk out on the beach on Wakanda Park in
August and go swimming. It’s a lack of access that creates that.”
the condition of the water, UW-Stout students avoid participating in water
activities. With few such activities offered on campus, students’ opinions stay
can imagine as a university, if we had a sailing class or we had a kayaking
class, through the rec center or something,” Spartz said. “If we had those
types of things that gave people that access, they would see there’s certainly
lots of stuff you can do on the lake.”
dialogue about the water keeps Lake Menomin and nearby Tainter Lake, connected
by the Red Cedar River, from being used to their full potential.
think we need to change the narrative of the lake,” Spartz said. “There are
awesome things to do outside around the water that students don’t take
advantage of because they think algae is bad. There are ways to get around
that. I think it could really enhance the student experience here on campus.”
Tainter Menomin Lake Improvement Association
has more information. The group recently hosted the sixth annual Red Cedar
Watershed Conference at UW-Stout to discuss the environment and the region’s water
learn more at the UW-Stout LAKES research experience for undergraduates.
fisherman tries his luck on Lake Menomin.
Spartz and his family live on the Red Cedar River and regularly use the river
and Lake Menomin, despite water quality issues related to blue-green algae.