Dirty job, good cause: Black Hawk's a cleaner lake
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Jim Millenacher recovered this from Black Hawk Lake: bait box, baseball cap, car tire, chains, full can of beer, life jacket, metal dock, milk jug, shot gun shells, styrofoam cups, truck rim, t-shirt, engine head, fishing bobber, fishing rod, flip flops, float toys, nets, old glass jar, plastic bags, pop can, rope, wagon wheel, water bottle, wood oars.
Beer cans, shotgun shells, engine parts and a full gallon of milk.
Those are a very small sample of the loads of junk that Jim Millenacker, of Lake View, hauled from Black Hawk Lake’s shoreline last fall.
“I’ve enjoyed the lake many years and decided to do it a favor,” said Millenacker, a longtime Carroll resident and paramedic who moved to a Black Hawk Lake house about two years ago after he retired from Carroll County Ambulance Service, where he had worked for 29 years.
Millenacker elaborated on his October cleanup efforts in a letter to the Daily Times Herald:
He wore old clothes, gloves and boots and spent up to 50 hours over the course of 10 days plucking trash from the lake. He said he filled 42-gallon trash bags — 19 of them — and hauled them to his pickup truck when they got too full or heavy.
“I fell in a few times, spent a lot of time crawling over rocks and boulders, into tall grasses, around downed trees and through the mud,” he said in the letter.
Millenacker said the effort started as a simple walk from his house on the east side of Black Hawk Lake in October. The lake’s water level was low, and it exposed garbage that he normally wouldn’t have seen. He was shocked.
The leisurely walk lasted about one-quarter mile before Millenacker turned back to get a garbage sack. He plans to make the cleanup an annual affair.
“At some time, each of us has dropped or thrown a single piece of litter. One piece at a time, no big deal, but then multiply each piece a thousand times, year after year,” Millenacker wrote. “If you can get a person to pick up a piece of trash every time they go out, they won’t be the one throwing a piece out.”
But some of the bigger items were clearly dumped by someone who thought it would be too costly or time-consuming to go to a landfill. Like the farm-machinery parts, engine cylinder heads, a truck wheel and hundreds of pounds of metal boat dock.
“I guess I’m not too surprised by what he found,” said Ben Wallace, an Iowa Department of Natural Resources biologist in Lake View. “They were items you would expect to find in a lake, but it’s disappointing when someone finds that much.”
Wallace hopes that others at Black Hawk will follow Millenacker’s lead.
“It’s definitely something that people should take note of,” Wallace said. “He had a lot of ambition, and he worked really hard and cleaned up part of the lake. ... I think anytime that somebody can help clean up — not just our lake and our roadways — it’s always a good thing.”
Millenacker’s volunteer work fits with ongoing projects to improve the lake, Wallace said. Black Hawk is in its first phase of a $450,000 project that aims to lower the amount of phosphorus that goes into the lake by 12.5 percent.
Millenacker said he now works part-time for the ambulance service. His wife, Jean Olson, is a retired middle school teacher who still substitute teaches in Carroll.
Together, the pair have time to do more cleanup at the lake, but Millenacker said he’ll wait until next fall after all the summer vacationers leave their junk along his lake.
That is, “unless I decide I need that much exercise again,” Millenacker said.
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