Wednesday, September 17th, 2008
By Nancy Allen
Area residents invited to paddle Grand Lake
  People wanting to experience and learn about Grand Lake up close can go on a canoe paddle on the lake Sept. 26.
The free event, slated rain or shine, is being organized by the Grand Lake/Wabash Watershed Alliance.
The purpose is to educate the public about special features of the lake like its wildlife and highlight activities on the lake related to the alliance's watershed action plan, says watershed coordinator Laura Walker.
Walker, who has made a number of practice runs on the lake in her kayak, says traveling the lake in this manner offers a new perspective.
"When you are actually paddling by and taking your time, you just see stuff up close you never noticed before," she says.
About 14 canoes and an unlimited number of personal flotation devices will be provided, or people can bring their own canoes and life vests if they choose.
Participants should meet at 7:30 a.m. at the East Bank State Park shelterhouse No. 3, where they will leave their vehicles. They will be transported to the West Bank boat launch area where the canoe paddle will start. A short safety briefing will be held before participants start out.
Walker said the group will canoe close to shore along the entire 9-mile length of the lake at a leisurely pace. There will be two people per canoe paddling and a third also can ride.
When Walker paddled the route in a kayak a few weeks ago, it took her about three hours, she says, and by canoe it went a bit faster.
Paddlers will make two stops along the south side of the lake.
The first will be at Windy Point, where Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District education specialist Nikki Hawk will discuss the Enviroscape, a model that illustrates what a watershed is, how it works and how humans affect a watershed. Also at Windy Point, Walker will explain a shoreline protection project using geotextile tubes filled with lake dredge material slated to begin this fall or next spring.
From Windy Point the group will paddle to the second stop along the lake shore where a naturalist from Grand Lake St. Marys State Park will discuss the lake's wildlife.
Then the group will paddle on to East Bank State Park, the end of the canoe paddle. At the last stop, education specialist Bonnie Kaiser with the Auglaize and Mercer County Solid Waste districts will talk about recycling and the recycling programs in both counties.
Paddlers will have lunch under the shelterhouse, and around noon, the watershed's public advisory board meeting will be held.
Walker said wind usually blows west to east across the lake, but if for some reason the wind changes the morning of the canoe paddle, the group will start at the East Bank and end at the West Bank. Then participants would be transported back to their vehicles.
Those going should make sure to wear sunscreen and comfortable, appropriate clothing and shoes. It likely will be cool in the morning when the group starts out, so a light jacket is recommended. They should also bring sunglasses, water and a rain poncho if necessary. Walker also suggests leaving valuables at home or placing them in a ziplock bag if carrying them on the boat.
Walker says she would have liked to have done a canoe float down a river.
"I would love to float down the Wabash (River) sometime, but right now the water level is too low and there are a lot of places you would have to walk," she says. "There is always water in the lake and you can always paddle it, unless the weather is inclement."
If the weather is so bad that it results in canceling the event, it will not be rescheduled. But the programs and meeting will still go on and be held under shelterhouses, Walker says.
People who don't want to paddle the lake can still come to the programs at the different stops and to the meeting.
To reserve a spot, call Walker at 419-586-3289 by Sept. 25 or e-mail her at laura.walker@mercercounty.org.

If you go:
What: Canoe paddle on Grand Lake
When: Sept. 26, begins at 7:30 a.m.
Where: Meet at East Bank State Park, shelterhouse No. 3, St. Marys
What to bring/wear: Light jacket, sunscreen and rain poncho if necessary
How to register: Call Laura Walker at 419-586-3289 or e-mail her at laura.walker@mercercounty.org. by Sept. 25
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