Kent Park Lake restoration project will lessen blue algae problems and maintain healthy ecosystem

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OXFORD, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The state recently decided to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on Kent Park Lake in Oxford.

That money was in jeopardy, but the idea is that this 700-thousand dollar investment will bring an even bigger boost to the local economy. Johnson County and the state split the costs of the multi-million dollar project. Now, instead of dredging the lake every 20 years, the restoration project at Kent Park Lake will help maintain a healthier ecosystem for a longer period of time.

"We want to fix what's causing the problems downstream. If we can fix them here, that domino effect starts to really take effect and we'll see the things down there that are going to make this healthier" said Charlie Bray, the head park ranger for Johnson County.

That's the goal of the multi-phase restoration project at Kent Park Lake - to improve the natural purification system of the watershed north of the lake.

"We want the water to settle the soil particulates and nutrients that are in that water to be utilized by plant communities or settle out in the catch basins and that will happen several times before it ends up in the lake" said Brad Freidhof of the Johnson County Conservation Board.

If the nutrients collect in the lake, things like blue green algae can form. That can make people and animals sick if they're exposed to it. The blue algae can cause skin rashes, nausea, and liver problems if ingested in large amounts. The backhoes at the site are digging out the old dirt so the catch basins that act as a water filter can be cleaned out and restored - that's phase one. Phase two will involve creating more catch basins and lowering the water levels of the lake. Bray and Friedhof say they're glad this project is underway.

"This is something that we've wanted to do for a while. We've identified some of these issues and it means a lot to be able to address this and provide a great place for people to come" said Bray.

"If we can improve the water quality here, we can see what works, what doesn't work and it can be replicated around the state of Iowa" said Freidhof.

Contractors will starting pulling down the levels of the lake starting this summer but actual construction on the lake itself won't start until next winter. Starting March 15th, people can fish at the lake without a bag limit or pole length restrictions. This summer, people will be able to participate in most park activities such as boating and fishing, but the swim beach will be closed.