Oh Killarney, Manitoba, you hold such a special place in my heart. You were the first community I lived in when I moved to Manitoba from Nova Scotia and you welcomed me with open arms. I bought my first home in Killarney. I planned my wedding while living in Killarney. I made some amazing friends for life in Killarney. I love Killarney and think it is a great little rural Manitoba town that all Manitobans should visit at least once. There is lots to do in the area for tourists and for locals and the community is friendly and inviting. If you haven't been there, plan a little road trip and explore this great area of Manitoba and see it for yourself. But you might want to skip swimming in the lake. You see, Killarney has a dirty little secret that is slowly leaking out to the public. It is something that plagues the community and puts a dark cloud over its cheerful and happy exterior. It is chipping away at the town’s slogan “There’s no better place!” and is leaving some locals upset and seeking help. Killarney Lake, which the community is completely centred around, is plagued with a blue green algae problem, and the town of Killarney wants Manitobans and the government to reach out and help them fix it.
The lake’s painful demise became very obvious to me in the summer of 2009. I was out for an evening bike ride around Killarney with my husband and some friends. We were cruising all over town, laughing and giggling, it was the perfect summer evening, in a perfect beach town in rural Manitoba. As we headed down the main drag towards the lake our noses started to twitch. What the heck was that stench? We were suddenly on a mission to investigate. As we pulled up to the bay we saw it. Hundreds of dead fish all covered in blue and green algae. My heart broke. What caused this? What can we do? This can’t be normal? I began to ask the locals questions and learned that Killarney Lake used to be a thriving beach community attracting visitors from near and far. A community where you could hardly find a spot on the beach and hundreds of kids would frolic in the lake during the summer. Not anymore. Children were no longer interested in swimming amongst the green slime, afraid they would pop out of the water and look like scary sea creatures. Parents were afraid the algae might make them sick and chose to go swim elsewhere. I admit, I too was scared, choosing to never ever dip my feet or swim in the lake for fear of the ever present green and blue algae that would surface in the summer months.
This problem isn’t really a new thing in Killarney, the locals have seen this happen every summer for a number of years when the temperature rises in July and August. The community has tried quite a few things to help the lake return to its glory days. Everything from skimming the algae off the top of the lake with a homemade skimmer machine run by local volunteers, to school projects with cat tails that filter the lake naturally, to bringing in biologists from local universities to investigate and offer advice to fix this lake without any harm to fragile ecosystems. Yet no concrete solution that will set this lake on the path to health has been found and successfully implemented and once again as the summer heats up articles are surfacing in Manitoba newspapers about Killarney Lake and its dirty little secret.
Today I saw the front page of the Brandon Sun where Killarney Mayor Rick Pauls is holding up some of the algae and begging for help. I can’t begin to adequately explain the amount of pain I feel to see my former community once again suffering and searching for help and answers for their precious lake. The whole situation makes me so sad. I don’t know what has caused the problem, or what the solution to the problem could be, but I really would like to see Manitobans rally together to search for a solution and to save this lake and to support the community of Killarney.
Manitoba is known for its lake culture, home of 100,000 lakes, and some of the best fishing in Canada. I know many people who grew up playing on and in this lake, who wish their children and grandchildren could do the same. Surely saving Killarney Lake is something that we as a province can do together and would be worthwhile for the entire province. Killarney Lake may be small and tucked away in the south western corner of the province, but couldn’t it at least be used as a test case so then once fixed the knowledge could be applied on larger lakes with similar problems as well? Killarney is a good community, filled with fantastic people, and as Manitobans we should rally around them and help them solve this problem properly. I believe with government support, and support from Manitobans, Killarney Lake can once again return to its glory days and the town slogan “There’s no better place!” can again fly with full pride.
If you would like information about Killarney or would like to contact the Town of Killarney please visit http://www.killarney.ca/.