The sound of an engine fills the air before a churning conveyer belt sends a thick swath of weeds, freshly plucked from the waters of Glen Lake, move up the belt to fill a bin to the brim with the shimmering vegetation.
Despite spending 15 years weeding the lake he has lived on for almost four decades, the Langford resident returns annually to take part in the harvest.
“As one of the fortunate people that do live on this lake, I think we have a responsibility to be stewards of the lake,” he said. “This is my opportunity to give back to the community by harvesting the weeds each year.”
The semi-retired alarm systems integrator cuts the invasive Brazlilian elodea from the lake bottom with the weed harvesting barge, which is fitted with gyrating teeth that run along an adjustable hydraulic arm that can go as deep as five feet below the surface. The arms snip thick weeds at the stem, which are collected onto the barge, brought to shore and sent up a conveyor belt that carries it into the bin.
When the bin fills up, Alpine Disposal hauls it away for use as fertilizer. The City of Langford picks up the tab for repairs and diesel fuel.
“When we first bought (our) property 20 years ago, you couldn’t row a boat past our place because the weeds were so thick,” said Geoff Hett, who lives on Langford Lake and takes his turn using the cutting barge when it gets moved over to his lake.
“It was impossible to swim here before now it is really quite different.”
“It’s important to clean up the swimming areas … and get (the weeds) out of the lakes so people can enjoy the water. It could actually be dangerous if someone gets tangled up.”
Hett, who has done the task for 20 years, said volunteers are needed to help maintain Langford Lake. He hopes others will help take on the mantle of volunteering for a couple of days on Glen Lake, Langford Lake or Florence Lake, which share the use of the harvester throughout the summer.
“A lot of people like me are getting older and last year we were at a crucial point where we didn’t have enough operators,” he said. “It is a fairly easy machine to operate and most people could learn to operate it in a couple of hours. I am hoping we might get eight to 10 operators (at Langford Lake). At the moment we have four of us.”
The harvester and connecting conveyor belt stay at each lake for three to four weeks when volunteers help navigate the orange barge, trimming the weeds from select areas of the popular lakes.
“The lake is a lot cleaner than it was and whenever we harvest, the wave action … cleans up the lake even more and puts more oxygen into the water,” said Pat Geary, the co-ordinator for Florence Lake. “There is a lot of areas we don’t touch because we use them for wetlands. (Florence) lake is a really nice wildlife lake with otter and mink that live adjacent to the water or in the water.”
He said most people respect the lake and the work the volunteers do, but he also hopes to see the volunteerism continue throughout the years to keep the lake as clean and safe for people as it is for the animals.
“I have had a number of comments from people on how nice the lake is and that is why I do it. I just know that if we don’t do anything, eventually it would completely close in,” he said. Since Langford put the weed cutter into the parks scheme, it has allowed residents to do their part, Geary added.
Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Geoff Hett at 250-478-2727. No special license is required and one of the three lake co-ordinators will provide training.