Contributed by Margaret Acosta Weirich
Having been raised in Iowa, I am so pleased that I had the opportunity to return to my home state this spring. One advantage of living in Iowa is the accessibility of outdoor recreation. I have fond memories of visiting Lake MacBride in my youth, and my current residence is not far from Gray’s Lake in Des Moines. I was excited to spend the summer with my two dogs going to the lake, paddle boarding, boating, and enjoying the various other recreational opportunities that Iowa has to offer.
Unfortunately, over the summer I became more and more concerned about the safety and quality of the water in Iowa’s lakes. I saw photos of Lake MacBride, close to my hometown, turned fluorescent green from a harmful algae bloom. I have heard that Gray’s Lake, which I was so excited to be near, may not be safe for me or my dogs to enjoy. In fact, just this month I read horrifying news stories from across the country about dogs dying from swimming in lakes where harmful algae blooms had caused high microcystin levels. Pets and children are particularly susceptible to serious illness from exposure to toxins. The thought of this happening to my little dogs, Wendell and Wren, is unimaginable.
Recently, the Reynolds administration rolled out “This is Iowa”, a campaign to attract and retain young professionals to live and work in Iowa. One of the main features of this campaign is outdoor recreation, particularly in and around water. While Iowa definitely has beautiful natural resources that should be protected and celebrated, statewide leaders have not made serious efforts to put their money where their mouths are on water quality. To encourage folks to swim, play, recreate, and relocate based on opportunities for outdoor recreation, those opportunities should at least be safe.
I love this state and I am so glad as a young professional I was able to move back here. I am alarmed and disappointed, however, in the quality of our recreational waters and the potential harm that could be done during what should be a wonderful afternoon at the beach. Iowa should be a great place to live, work, and play, and we deserve to have our natural resources and our public health protected.
Margaret Acosta Weirich
Des Moines, Iowa