Dear Green Lake, Sorry About The Cyanobacteria

Aug 26, 2014

Much has changed at Seattle's popular Green Lake, but some things stay the same. In this photo from 1936, divers leap off a wooden tower.
Much has changed at Seattle's popular Green Lake, but some things stay the same. In this photo from 1936, divers leap off a wooden tower.
Credit Credit Seattle Municipal Archives

Dear Green Lake,

“Beware of toxic algae,” say the signs posted around you. But swimmers aren’t deterred from your warmish waters.

You were once a pristine lake north of Seattle, carved by a glacier long ago.

Then settlers logged all around you. Later, the Olmsted brothers reshaped your shores. They filled you in on the edges, so that we could have a nice trail around you. And then the Aurora Speedway came through to the West and dumped its fill in your waters. Now you’re 100 acres smaller than you used to be.

At the height of your fame, hydroplanes raced on your surface. The Grateful Dead played on your shores. Now, packs of neighborhood dogs trample your pretty edge plantings. The expansive lawns that look so good on the Olmsted drawings attract crowds of Canada geese, whose waste washes into you, feeding the cyanobacteria that makes you poisonous from time to time.

Below your surface, you’re choked with milfoil. Along your shore, blackberry brambles crowd out the plants placed there by devoted volunteers who gather in small groups to weed, hoping to restore a trace of your lost dignity. On a stump is a tribute to the tree that once grew out of it.

We adore you despite your flaws. In these last days of summer, thousands of strollers and roller bladers (and other befuddling wheel sports) will circle you each day. Kids will take their last jumps off your docks: one last cannonball before school starts next week.

Dearest Green Lake. You are loved. But perhaps a little too much.

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