Clean a Boat, Save a Lake

Last season, 8,884 boats were launched at the six Door County-owned parks that have boat launches. This number doesn’t include boaters who may have ignored the solar-powered pay stations, those with annual passes who launched more than once, or the private and municipal marinas and launches around the county.

“It’s a lot of boat usage,” said Samantha Koyen, a conservationist at the Door County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).

It’s also a lot of opportunity for invasive aquatic species to hitchhike to another waterway or wetland. To help boaters prevent this spread, electronic boat-cleaning units were installed in March at Door County’s busiest county boat launches: Robert M. Carmody County Park in Little Sturgeon and George K. Pinney County Park in Sevastopol.

The CD3 units – for Clean, Drain, Dry and Dispose – were funded last year with a $116,854 grant from the Wisconsin Coastal Management grant program and installed in late March. The grant also paid for boat-cleaning stations at three Ahnapee Trail access locations to combat terrestrial invasives. 

“It was a really great opportunity to install some infrastructure,” Koyen said.

Aquatic invasives such as Eurasian watermilfoil or curly-leaf pondweed are spread to new waters primarily by watercraft – in ballast water, on boats or in the water of a live well or bait bucket, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Even noninvasives can contribute to the spread, Koyen said, such as when a boater transports native plant material that contains the tiny, hard-to-see larvae of the iconic invasives: zebra and quagga mussels.

Other aquatic hitchhikers are invisible, such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia, Koyen said. This deadly virus is transmitted from fish to fish through reproduction or close contact with contaminated water. It affects 34 species of fish, including bass and lake whitefish, and its spread has caused mass mortality events within the Great Lakes. 

The hoses, brush and other tools on the new units are free to use. They also serve as visual reminders of boaters’ and anglers’ responsibility under Wisconsin law to inspect boats and trailers, remove any attached aquatic plants or animals, and drain all water. 

“It would hopefully trigger them to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I did forget to do that,’” Koyen said. 

Koyen works with the SWCD’s Invasive Species Program, which guides the Door County Invasive Species Team (DCIST): a collaboration among the SWCD, natural resources professionals, community leaders and interested citizens. The team works with the Invasive Species Strategic Plan created in September 2018 by the DCIST, the SWCD and the Door County Land Conservation Committee. The plan outlines strategies to achieve the DCIST’s mission during the next five years.

Number of Boats Launched at County-owned Launches, 2019

Robert M. Carmody County Park, Little Sturgeon: 4,319

George K. Pinney County Park, Sevastopol: 2,250

Chaudoir’s Dock Park, Union: 1,605

Frank E. Murphy Park, Egg Harbor: 372

Forestville Dam County Park, Forestville: 253

Lilly Bay, junction of Sevastopol and Sturgeon Bay: 85