“Lakespert” on Urban Lakes

Steve Lundt, CLM

Urban lakes are overused and under-appreciated. Do something about it.

A popular urban lake in Denver, CO. How many lake issues can you find in this photo? Photo: Steven Lundt.

There are urbanized lakes (Lake Washington and Lake Mendota) and then there are urban lakes (small, sometimes nameless lakes in city parks). Any “lakespert” will tell you that lakes in populated areas are important to the community and at the same time are neglected and underappreciated.

Urban lakes dotting our cities and towns are typically small, shallow, murky, afterthoughts that are lined with seawalls, choked with overfertilized lawns, and lost to city politics and departments. My local urban lake near downtown Denver doesn’t even allow canoeing! These waterbodies have so much potential but are typically over utilized or completely forfeited by the community. Here’s a list of pressures and expectations that urban lakes run into:

  1. Storm water (treatment, trash collection, and flood control)
  2. Aesthetics (high natural lake expectations plus a fountain)
  3. Fishing (recreational and subsistence)
  4. Boating (dragon boat races to water skiing)
  5. Wildlife habitat (connectivity to wildlife corridor and birding)
  6. Therapeutic relief from daily stresses (think outdoor yoga or a place to picnic)
  7. Water quality standards (Clean Water Act)
  8. Safe place for people experiencing homelessness (sanitation issues)
  9. Economic driver (local businesses, real estate, and tourism)
  10. Commons (farmer markets, charity runs, fireworks, and open-air concerts)
  11. Backdrop for outdoor exercising (jogging, biking, and walking)
  12. Outdoor classrooms and summer camps (some kids never get out of the city)

Now imagine your local urban lake and how it is trying to meet all these competing needs. It’s no wonder there are more residential geese than actual residents enjoying the lake. In my
“lakespert” opinion, I recommend three action items that would improve any urban lake:

  1. Allow appropriate boating – get people on the water,
  2. Stock heavily with appropriate, catchable fish – get kids excited about lake fishing, and
  3. Organize an annual Lakes Appreciation event in July –educate the community about what an urban lake is and can do.

If those three items can happen successfully, then most other lake related topics and issues will be addressed along the way.

Ever wonder why we have so many urbanized and urban lakes around the world? People are drawn to water for safety, food, excitement, comfort, and relaxation. Urban lakes need a better chance to fulfill these core desires. Do something about it. Start planning your Lakes Appreciation celebration now.

Steve Lundt, Certified Lake Manager, has monitored and worked to improve water quality at Barr Lake (Denver, Colorado) for the past 19 years. Steve is active with the Colorado Lake & Reservoir Management Association and is a past Region 8 director for NALMS and an active member since 1998.