Summer is Unofficially Here

Outdoors with Forda Birds—by John Andreoni

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It’s not a day designated to thank veterans for their service, unless you do that every day. Besides, it doesn’t really make any difference because both gestures are worthy. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades. Others take advantage of the long holiday weekend doing anything and everything but honor those who paid the ultimate price. Both approaches are acceptable, I guess, and having that right to choose has been protected by the millions who fought and lived and died for their country.

Therefore, as long as people see the big picture, it’s okay for them to take advantage of other events that show up every holiday. For example, there are big sales going on this weekend at many businesses. Some might try to start a family tradition by investigating and experimenting with the 20 most popular Memorial Day drinks. In my case, I’m going to focus on Memorial Day being the unofficial opening day of summer, a concept that has been around for years and one that writers jump at. It’s a timely topic that many of us use to fill space. On the other hand, it might also be an opportunity to draw attention to and remind people of other important issues that took place this time of the year.

For example, back in 2009, I was in Kansas visiting my daughter when I got the news about the big toxin scare back home.  The EPA decided to release a water quality warning a few days before the Memorial Day weekend that created concerns and maybe a touch of panic in all that use Grand Lake St. Marys. The press was all over the news release and story after story was generated across the state, almost all being negative. As an end result, tourism at St. Marys took an enormous hit and it still hasn’t recovered fully. In 2010, I wrote a Memorial Day piece that in today’s world would probably be called fake news or alternative facts. Misleading readers was definitely not my intent, but as I look back, I could see why some thought I might be working for the ODNR or the Tourism Groups. Under the circumstances and at the time, anything positive being said about the lake would trigger an individual’s BC detector.

On May 28, 2010, I wrote, “From what I’ve observed, the lake is in good shape. I was on the water twice this week, once to do a little cat fishing and the second time just to take a joy ride. The water is a little brown, which is the way I’ve always known it but relatively clear. If I had any complaints at all, it would have to be the cottonwood seeds that play havoc with my fishing line.” I mentioned a local crappie tournament that took almost eight pounds to win, which was a good weight for an eight fish limit. I talked to a couple of bass fishermen at a Celina restaurant and they were satisfied with the fishing. One of them caught 21 keeper bass while pre-fishing. Catfishing, of course, was excellent.

Three weeks later I wrote, “Anyone who has been around the south side of the lake recently has certainly noticed a dramatic change in water quality. I stopped by a channel in the Windy Point area last weekend and was greeted by a layer of foam on top of completely blue, algae covered water that had the consistency similar to 2% milk. Accompanying this soupy mess was a smell reminiscent of the old public outhouses that used to be along the lake beaches back in the old days. I just returned from driving along the East Bank.  The winds are calm, and this new algae bloom, for all practical purposes, now covers the entire lake. The water of the old state house lagoon is putrid, and the fish kill is obvious. Where there is an alga covering the water, there is little or no oxygen. Fish need oxygenated water to survive, so the potential fish kill is something one doesn’t care to consider. Craig Morton, our local park manager, said, ‘We’re now at a crisis state.’ According to Morton, the problem is so severe that campers are cancelling reservations and asking for refunds.” I was forced to eat crow back then but still tried to paint a realistic picture of the conditions.

A lot of things have happened to GLSM since the Memorial Day weekends of 2009 and 2010. Personally, I believe most of the initiatives that have taken place, are taking place, or are in the planning stage have merit. At the very least, they’re well intentioned. People need to sort through the misinformation and disinformation concerning the lake’s water quality problems and develop an appropriate attitude. That’s hard to do in a time when telling the truth seems to be the exception rather than the rule. The press, as an institution, is mandated to be honest and fair. Sometimes they are; sometimes they aren’t. Individuals representing us who don’t see it that way, come and go. That’s how the republic is supposed to work.