Despite complications from rainy, cold weather over the weekend, a dedicated group of volunteers removed loads of trees and brush from the banks of Marion County Lake.
Lake residents Dennis and Sherry Conyers, Delmar and Nadine Iseli, and Jim Darrow, who owns property and a dock at the lake, were among volunteers who worked on Monday.
“We made some good progress but Saturday and Sunday were washouts with the rainy, cold weather,” said Sherry, who hauled brush despite nursing an elbow she broken before the cleanup. “I believe in this project. I think it will make the lake more enjoyable and creates a better view.”
She said as many as 13 volunteers, including county commissioner Dianne Novak, turned out last week.
“We didn’t even faze it,” Novak said. “We had no idea how thick and dense the growth really was.”
Volunteers were not allowed to cut down the big, dead locust trees, which Novak said would be removed by contractors.
Cutting only what they were allowed to cut, Novak said they started Wednesday on the north side near the former Kingfisher Inn building, removing thorny rose, locusts, Siberian elms, as well as male and small cedar trees, and a type of pear tree not native to the area, as advised by two representatives from Kansas Wildlife and Forestry.
“They are considered invasive species,” Conyers said. “At one point we had four chainsaws going.”
Considering the time it took to clear the “thick and terrible areas” Novak was pleased with what was accomplished. However, the rain was a disappointment.
“Oh my gosh, talk about workers, these people worked,” Novak said. “I think they were overwhelmed with the opportunity to beautify the lake, and now they can see it.”
Volunteers worked “feverously” hoping to get to the low water bridge, Novak said, but rain truncated their weekend progress.
“The weather really kyboshed the whole weekend,” Novak said. “Some people in the group the Friends of the Marion County Lake were planning on helping over the weekend weren’t there because the weather prevented that.”
Novak said she hopes the county commission will grant an extension on the project so they can accomplish their goal.
Nevertheless, volunteers removed loads of brush and trees using a dump truck and a couple pickups last week. Darrow also estimated that volunteers filled and emptied his full-size trailer at least 15 times.
“Thinning out the trees makes the reaming trees healthier and helps control the insects; I’d like this to be a nice beautiful place,” Darrow said. “I’ve meet a bunch of good people, too. Delmar is 82 and he is the hardest worker. He works like a 20-year-old.”
Delmar, who had worked every day there was not rain, seemed excited about what the fruits of their volunteer labor might afford area anglers.
“There are places you can get to now to fish where you couldn’t before,” Delmar said.
His wife Nadine said dragging branches up steep inclines was tedious and tough at times, however she was positive about the progress they had made, too.
“It doesn’t take that long to make it look good,” Nadine said. “One man told us that 30 years ago you could fish anywhere on the lake; now parts are so overtaken that you can’t do that. We hope that we can get a few more days to work.”
Lake Superintendent Steve Hudson was contacted for this article, but did not want to comment on the volunteer effort.