LAKEWOOD - Representatives from two state agencies, three civic organizations and at least one local church will converge on American Lake this Saturday (July 10) to form a partnership dedicated to revitalizing the popular boat launch on the east side of the lake.
After a brief orientation, volunteers will go to work picking up litter, removing graffiti and erecting signs announcing the boat launch as an "Adopt an Access" site managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
"We have high hopes for this new partnership with the local community," said Steve Sherlock, WDFW statewide access site coordinator. "This isn't just a one-day clean-up campaign, it's a joint commitment to the future operation of this site."
Owned by the state Military Department and managed by WDFW as a public recreation site, the American Lake boat ramp is used by thousands of boaters and anglers every year, Sherlock said. Because of its proximity to Pierce County's population center, it also presents some major management challenges, he said.
"Quite frankly, the American Lake access site is one of our biggest concerns in the entire system," said Sherlock, who oversees more than 600 outdoor access sites - mostly boat launches - around the state. "We've dealt with vandalism, illegal dumping and criminal activity of all kinds. We can't be there to monitor the place 24 hours a day."
That's why the community needs to play a greater role in the future of the site, said Dave Anderson, a local activist whose father has owned Bill's Boathouse on the lake since the mid-1950s.
As president of both the Tillicum Neighborhood Association and the Tillicum Merchant's Association, Anderson said he has already lined up about two-dozen volunteers to participate in this Saturday's clean-up. Other organizations committed to cleaning up and monitoring the site include the American Lake Neighborhood Association and the Lakewood Department of Parks and Recreation.
"We're ready to roll up our sleeves and go to work," said Anderson, who also plans to recruit volunteers from Tillicum Baptist Church where he serves as youth minister. "American Lake is a community asset, and we have a civic responsibility to help maintain it. Ultimately, our main goal is to ensure the boat launch remains open for public use."
Other organizations and individuals interested in participating in clean-up activities this Saturday should arrive at the access site at 10 a.m. and bring some work gloves and heavy shoes, said Sherlock, who hopes to complete the first day's work by 2 p.m.
To get there, take I-5 to Exit 122 (Tillicum), go west about half a mile on Berkley Street S.W., turn left on Portland Street and travel 0.2 mile to the American Lake Access Area.
Mike Williams, Real Property Manager with the Military Department, noted that WDFW leased the American Lake access site from the 1950s until 2001, when the lease was terminated for security reasons. Since last November, when WDFW resumed site-management responsibilities under a new agreement, it has reopened the public restrooms, graded the parking lot, cleaned up garbage and made a number of other improvements, Williams said.
"We're very pleased with this new agreement, but more importantly with the collaboration we are forging with local community members that will continue to provide clean, safe, access to American Lake," Williams said.