T o paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln: You can satisfy all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot satisfy all the people all the time.
It’s what came to mind after listening to the proceedings at a meeting called by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to discuss Illinois Pondweed, a native plant that is becoming a nuisance to users of Lake June-In-Winter.
The morning session, officially titled an Aquatic Plant Management Public Meeting, was held at the H.L. Bishop Park clubhouse and attracted more than 130 concerned residents, many of them lakefront homeowners.
The meeting was called to gather input from residents concerning an explosion of growth within the last five or six months of a native species known as Illinois Pondweed. Herein lies the “rub” as they say. Illinois Pondweed is a native species found throughout Florida. It expands only into areas available to it rather than overrunning other plants as water hyacinths and hydrilla do.
FWC Invasive Plant Management Section representative Kelle Sullivan did an admirable job of presenting Lake June’s Pondweed history. In a nutshell, Sullivan explained that it is indeed a native species, the Pondweed has been in the lake all along, though unseen, and there doesn’t appear to be any specific or obvious reason for the recent rapid and expansive growth. She reminded attendees that significant changes in the surrounding environment have occurred since longtime residents first moved to the lake.
The audience was politely attentive until a resident asked about what the FWC was going to do about it. Sullivan replied that there was no plan at the moment, but that one would be forthcoming in about two weeks. The plan of action would reflect the FWC’s position to manage the lake so that fish, wildlife, and human access and use would be taken into account.
The residents did not take kindly to that position. One of the residents summed up their position, saying the residents didn’t want the Pondweed managed, they wanted it gone. The residents that spoke all agreed to that position.
The Pondweed is indeed restricting resident and visitor recreational access and use of the lake. Residents expressed concern over potentially declining property values and the negative economic impact of a lake “full of weeds.” A number of residents also expressed concern over the safety issue created by the pervasive weed to swimmers and boaters alike.
Those concerns are certainly valid should the weed take over the lake. However, that’s highly unlikely according to the FWC.
The reality is that the FWC is not going to come in and annihilate plant growth in the lake by a broad distribution herbicide, thus returning to its “pristine” condition. Apparently, such a solution was tried in another lake in the area in 1990 and, as history reminds us, the lake was nearly annihilated. It took multiple years for that lake to recover to a satisfactory state.
Like it or not, a middle ground — yes, a compromise — must be found. The “all or nothing” position is impractical and needs to be abandoned. The environment of Lake June has changed. The population of residents has grown significantly over the years. As a result, the environment has been affected by such things as increased use of lawn chemicals as well as those used by surrounding citrus growers. Stormwater runoff from roads could be a contributor, too.
Many these days want remedies without personal effort or expense. The most frequently expressed concern at Thursday’s meeting was property values. Everyone wanted their values to stay up or increase, yet there’s a movement to have property values reduced due to an apparent deterioration of the lake. You can’t have it both ways.
A middle ground must be found. The opposing parties need to get together and realistically put together a plan which would deal with the problem in a way with the least impact on the ecology of the lake and its recreational use. Common sense and practicality must prevail. Ideological standoffs accomplish nothing except raising everyone’s blood pressure.