High school students may serve as lake stewards

LAKE PLACID – High school students here may soon join the fight against aquatic invasive species.

Mark Wilson, president of the Lake Placid Shore Owners Association, met with officials from the village of Lake Placid and the town of North Elba last week to discuss the possibility of using local high school students to help monitor boats going in and out of Lake Placid for invasive hitchhikers.

A team from the Lake Stewardship Program, run by the Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College, has, in recent years, monitored the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s boat launch on Lake Placid between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but Wilson said the boating season has grown longer, and stewards are needed earlier in the spring and in the fall.

Wilson noted that the ice on Lake Placid went out in late March last year, and it didn’t freeze over until the second week of December.

“We’re looking at nine-and-a-half weeks of unguarded boat access on the lake in the spring, and another 14 weeks in the fall,” Wilson told the North Elba town board last Tuesday. “Basically, what Lake Placid has is 40 percent coverage of the open water calendar. We are looking to do something to try to minimize that exposure for the lake.”

The AWI’s stewardship program uses college students who are, for the most part, only available during the summer months. The program doesn’t have enough personnel to monitor water bodies during the spring and fall, Wilson said.

So Wilson spoke to Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Randy Richards to see if lake stewardship could be worked into science curriculum for juniors and seniors at the high school.

“He suggested that not only could we integrate stewardship into the science curriculum, but there was also a requirement of juniors and seniors for community service that could be leveraged, as well as junior and senior projects,” Wilson said.

At Tuesday’s Lake Placid school board meeting, Richards said he has spoken with the district’s guidance counselors and principals about gauging student interest in the project.

“It’s a nice community partnership,” Richards said.

Richards said he was a little worried about students interacting with individual boat owners because “sometimes they get a little cranky when they’re challenged” about invasive species. But school board President Mary Dietrich said boat owners should be used to it since the Paul Smith’s College students have been monitoring boats for the last few years.

The lake stewards have primarily worked at the state boat launch, since that one sees the highest volume of traffic. Wilson estimated that for every 10 boats that pass through the state launch, only one is launched at the village-owned launch on Victor Herbert Road.

The village funds a lake steward for the three highest-traffic weekends of the summer: Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. The village also helps pay for yearly milfoil removal in Paradox Bay and has installed a traffic camera to monitor usage patterns at its boat launch.

Wilson told the Enterprise that he’d like to have lake stewards at the village launch throughout the entire summer, but for now, the goal is to get better coverage at the state launch.

“It really will depend on how many students we get involved,” Wilson said. “We still have to first man the highest-volume launch, and then we would expand it to include the village launch. If it’s successful enough, we could even get them to do projects on Mirror Lake.”

Wilson said he’ll meet with high school science teacher Tammy Morgan, Dean of Students Jon Fremante, representatives from the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, shore owners and Eric Holmlund of the Adirondack Watershed Institute at the end of the month to discuss details of the project. Wilson told the North Elba board that it could be a valuable community-building exercise.

North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi said senior citizens and other service groups may also be interested in getting involved.

“We’re constantly getting organization and groups contacting us about providing services at the recycling center and so forth, and I would think they’d have an interest in this,” he said. “We spoke to senior citizens who were looking for things to do.”

Lake Placid village Mayor Craig Randall said his board will also support Wilson’s proposal.

“It’s a superb way to, through our young people, educate our community and future generations,” he said.

Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or