Conflicting views on Weyauwega Lake
Shoreline vegetation: unsightly weeds or wildlife habitat
By Robert Cloud
What some residents see as unattractive weeds blocking their view of Weyauwega Lake the state Department of Natural Resources sees as a wildlife habitat.
Eleanor Highlander has lived on Park View Lane, across the road from Weyauwega Lake, for nearly 29 years.
She told the Waupaca County Post that the city of Weyauwega is no longer removing weeds and trees along the lake’s shoreline.
“I called the mayor about five times last year to see if he would have the city clean out the weeds and trees,” Highlander wrote in an email. “I was told he would get it done, but the DNR won’t let them cut them down. To this day, nothing has been done.”
In the past, Highlander called former Mayor Howard Quimby “and the same day he had the guys come down and clean the entire shoreline up from one end to the other. So why can’t it be done now?” she said.
Highlander said the weeds have grown into trees and “people can’t even get down to the shoreline to fish. The little kids hardly ever come around here anymore to fish.”
She noted that a church group used to bring youth to the shore to fish, but have stopped.
Additional fishing sites
City Administrator Jeremy Schroeder said the city installed a second fishing pier on Weyauwega Lake, located to the immediate southeast of her residence, along the park off State Highway 110, by the bridge.
The pier was made possible after Quimby donated $25,000 for an accessible fishing area for youth and those who are handicapped.
“This pier has been very well received and heavily used,” Schroeder said. “There is also the other pier, which has been in place for some time to the southwest of her residence. Youth and families have also been fishing more near the dam both above and below because they are catching lots of fish.”
Schroeder noted that the city opened a new canoe launch on the Waupaca River that has created additional opportunities for fishing.
While Schroeder did not know which church had brought youth to the lake, he said, “We know that summer school programs, as well as programs during the regular school year bring numerous classes to the immediate area for research, fishing and other programs.”
Highlander also complained that the weeds and trees block the view of the Independence Day fireworks over Weyauwega Lake.
“The fireworks brought in a lot of people along the street and families/children came to watch them and could hardly see due to all the weeds/trees along the shoreline,” Highlander said. “It’s a wonderful idea to put them off here, but would be nice if people could get the full benefits of seeing them all without all the tall weeds/trees.”
“Numerous viewing opportunities were made available for viewing of the fireworks if people needed a spot. Those viewing areas included the following businesses opening their parking lots for viewers, which included St. Peter Lutheran Church and School, Taylor Cheese and Agropur. Additionally the city-owned parking lot by the vacant IGA building was also available and all these viewing areas were advertised and promoted in the city newsletters and social media.
“Some people chose to view the fireworks on Parkview Lane near her residence,” he added. “To our knowledge, the only suggestions or complaints received at the city were from residents that lived around the fairgrounds that missed the previous convenience of having the fireworks in their back yard, so to speak.”
“I truly hope that the city will take action to make the shoreline beautiful again,” Highlander said. “I don’t think the DNR has any say in keeping it cleaned up. After all, it is weeds that have turned into trees. It’s not like the city is killing off trees. Leave the trees alone and deal with the rest of the mess. It would be nice to allow the residents to enjoy the beauty of the lake again.”
“Unfortunately, the DNR has all of the say when it comes to shoreland and shoreland zoning ordinances,” Schroeder said. “Additionally, the Weyauwega Lake Restoration Group is involved with the lake and feels very strongly about preserving the lake and its shorelines.”
DNR comment on shorelines
“Native shorelines are critical habitat for wildlife species like nesting birds, small mammals, inverts and more,” Scott Koehnke with the DNR said in a Jan. 13 email to Schroeder and Weyauwega Mayor Jack Spierings. “Shorelines that are dominated by non-native species like buckthorn are still valuable in a sense, but not nearly as much as native species.”
Koehnke also noted that “the deep rooting of the vegetation in the bank protects the bank from slumpage and erosion – turf grass provides no structural support to the bank whatsoever. Your best shoreline protection is a diverse, vegetated community of grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees.”
The city is responsible for vegetation management on shorelines within its jurisdiction, Koehnke’s email said.
“The DNR does not regulate the cutting of vegetation above the ordinary high watermark,” Koehnke said. “If the site is dominated by invasive species, a restoration project could be considered that includes native prairie plantings and shrubs. If the site is not dominated by invasives, then I’d encourage selective limbing of trees as opposed to outright removal of the entire tree.”
After the Waupaca County Post contacted him, Schroeder and Weyauwega’s Public Works supervisor met with Highlander on Monday, July 26.
“We thoroughly looked the north shore over and I shared with her the email from Scott Koehnke at the DNR,” Schroeder said. “We explained how the rules have changed since Howard Quimby was mayor. In the end I advised her if we can do something we certainly will as long as it follows ordinance and DNR.”