Devils Lake Revival

Carp diem!

This is a terrific article on the Devils Lake Revival and the history that it is trying to recreate. Visit our photo gallery on the Devils Lake Revival for photos of the event.

Devils Lake seizes on its history
By Niki Price • Oregon Coast TODAY

One might be surprised to see the word “devil” and “revival” on the same poster. The fellow with the horns and the tail isn’t usually invited to the old-time church meetings beneath the big tent. But these posters are referring a different kind of devil: the monsters that, according to Native American legend, once lived in Lincoln City’s freshwater lake. The Devils Lake Revival, then, is the resurrection of the annual summer party that was once held on its shores.

That community celebration, a day full of aquatic fun for the whole family, will be held this Saturday, Aug. 27, at Regatta Grounds Park. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., lake lovers can ride sailboats, take pontoon boat tours, learn to kayak and stand-up paddleboard, and listen to music by the Schooner Creek String Band. Those who add their addresses to the Devils Lake Water Improvement District’s e-mail list will be eligible for a raft of prizes including hotel stays, restaurant meals and even your very own, fully-equipped kayak. A dozen local agencies will be staffing booths, offering information on conservation activities throughout the region.

All the activities at the Devils Lake Revival will be free, except for the food. The Business for Excellence in Youth committee will be there, selling snacks and lunches to benefit the Backpack Program. Prize sponsors include the ‘D’ Sands Condominium Motel, the Historic Anchor Inn and Mo’

“The Devils Lake Revival is about re-connecting people to this great resource, and getting them in tune with what’s going on here,” said DLWID project manager Seth Lenaerts, who is heading up the new festival. “And if people can also learn a bit about the watershed, and how the things they do on a daily basis can impact the health of the lake, that’s great, too.”

This event is not just a revival of sentiment and support for the 680-acre Devils Lake, which drains into the Pacific via the famously short D River. In a way, it’s an update of one of the most curious celebrations ever to grace the Lincoln City social calendar: the Grass Carp Festival, which was an annual event from 1987 to 1992. As many locals will remember, it featured canoe races, waterskiing troupes and plenty of tongue-in-cheek celebration of an unlikely hero: the sterile Chinese grass carp.

In the early 1980s, before the introduction of the carp, the lake was clogged with silt and vegetation. Concerned citizens formed the Preservation Association of Devils Lake, which led to the establishment of the Devils Lake Water Improvement District, in 1984. The following year, DLWID qualified for an EPA Clean Lakes Phase II Restoration Grant for the introduction of biological control, through the introduction of Chinese grass carp (also known as white amur).

The first batch, 10,000 fish that had been raised at a farm in Arkansas, were released into Devils Lake in 1986. A few members of the Lincoln City community — led by Paulette Isham-Wolf, Dawn Bredimus and Joe Della Valle — thought that was a reason to celebrate.

TODAY photos.

“It was all about the restoration of Devils Lake, by virtue of the Chinese grass carp. They thought, ‘Why not have the world’s first and probably only Grass Carp Festival?’” said current DLWID executive director Paul Robertson. “It was kooky and fun, and a little bit weird. But they were really trying to spotlight Devils Lake as an economic and community resource.”

One of the highlights of the annual Grass Carp Festival were the tandem canoe races, which were won in 1987 by Bay Area Texaco, in 1988 by the Taft High School Senior Parents, and in 1989 by Chuck Cline and Tom Kirk. The team of Debra Herd and Tony Ames took the title in 1990 and 1992, and Len Moren and Scott Korbe were the winners in 1991. The trophy was presented by the Lincoln City Motel Association.

Many longtime residents will remember the Grass Carp Festival for its water-skiing show. For several years, Robertson said, the committee imported a 10-member troupe that performed the classic pyramids, piggy-back formations and other tricks.

“They had bands and dancing, and once an African dancing group came through,” Robertson said. “It was a lot of fun. It only came to an end, I think, because the small group of volunteers got tired of putting it on.”

As it turns out, the grass carp lasted longer than their festival. The district introduced 17,050 fish in 1987, and another 5,000 in 1993. All were sterile, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t long-lived. Robertson estimates there are still 1,000 carp alive in Devils Lake today, munching away.

The carp introduction, the first of its kind west of the Mississippi River, did exactly what managers had hoped. These voracious feeders mowed down the vegetation, which cleared large areas for recreational use and kept Devils Lake from becoming a swamp. They worked so well that the district would like to schedule another introduction, to replace those carp that will die in the next five years.

But public and governmental attitudes have changed in the last decade. In 2003, amidst growing concern for native fish, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife banned the use of these non-native species for aquatic weed control. DLWID will have to secure an exemption, or work for a change in the ODFW regulations, before they release any more.

If that doesn’t happen, Robertson said, lake users will definitely notice the difference.

“I remember when the Regatta Grounds was a swamp of reeds, and I’ve seen the aerial photographs (from the 1980s). It was pretty obvious that the situation was pretty dire,” Robertson. “It’s hard to imagine, today, the magnitude of the weed growth that was out there before the grass carp were introduced.”

But while the carp continue to munch on the symptom, Robertson and Lenaerts are also focusing on the cause: excessive nutrients, traveling through the watershed to collect, and concentrate, in this shallow lake. The district has been encouraging lakefront property owners to replace their grass lawns with native plants, so that less nutrient-rich fertilizer runs off into Devils Lake. And, because leaky septic tanks also introduce what can euphemistically be called “nutrients,” Robertson is working to enact a septic tank inspection program in the unincorporated neighborhoods. Eventually, he hopes, Lincoln City’s public sewer system can be extended to all the homes around the lake.

Helping people understand these problems, and how their actions can bring changes to the lake, is one goal of this Saturday’s Devils Lake Revival. Between the boat tours, the educational booths and the kayak giveaway, he hopes that visitors can see the bigger picture.

“The whole idea of this festival is to spotlight the restoration of this resource: where it’s been, where it’s going, and to do so by having fun,” Robertson said. “We have some pretty lofty goals for the health of this lake, and we’ll need community support to achieve them.”

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Filed under DLWID, Events, Grass Carp, Lakeside, Uncategorized

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