AN ESCALATING weed problem on Lake Weeroona has left Bendigo rowing and canoe club members and other lake users high and dry.
The lake has been off-limits for more than a week, severely disrupting the Bendigo Rowing Club's preparations for upcoming rowing regattas across Victoria.
Canoeing, dragon boating, model yachting and the popular Sailability program, run by the Bendigo Yacht Club, have also been curtailed until further notice.
It is a tough blow for the clubs, which have worked hard through 2021 to implement COVID-safe practice and return to play plans, and have been able to remain COVID-free.
Bendigo Rowing Club captain Lachlan McGrath said while the lake had only been closed for about two weeks, the problem of weeds wrapping themselves around boat keels, paddles and oars had existed for months.
"We were supposed to go the Rutherglen regatta this weekend, but between the weeds and COVID, we've ended up cancelling.
"This time of the year there are a lot of events - Ballarat, Barwon, everywhere - pretty much every single weekend up until the end of March we've got regattas.
"We do have a weed cutter, a bit like a whipper snipper, but it's not built to do a whole lake and while we have been cutting, they have been growing pretty quick.
"There are so many groups who use the lake, like the rowing club, canoe club and dragonboat club and then there are the remote control boats, so it's affecting a lot of people."
In the meantime, rowers have had to make do working on their fitness and technique using rowing machines in the club's gym.
Both the rowing and canoe clubs have been in contact with the City of Greater Bendigo, which has been quick to provide assistance.
Council's manager parks and open space Chris Mitchell said council staff had spent Thursday afternoon topping up the water level to help limit the amount of sunlight the pond weed is exposed to and slow its growth.
"We have had success in the past in dealing with the pond weed in this way," Mitchell said.
"In the meantime, we are also investigating hiring a machine to remove the weed, if this is needed in the future.
"However, the challenge is many lakes are experiencing the same issue due to the recent weather conditions and these machines are in demand across a number of areas.
"We will continue to monitor conditions at the lake and take further action if necessary."
The weeds seem to also be taking their toll on the lake's aquatic wildlife, including freshwater turtles, who are becoming entangled in weeds in the oxygen-depleted water.
Bendigo Canoe Club coach Tony Misson said his club's activities had also been impacted, albeit not as severely as the rowing.
He said members had spent much of their time removing weeds from the lake, but added it was a never-ending battle as they were quick to grow back.
"We have so many programs we are trying to run that have been impacted," he said.
"We've got our active-women, active-girls, juniors and from a fortnight's time we are hoping to run our schools program, but we're a little hamstrung at the moment.
"For the moment we have some of our paddlers out at Lake Eppalock, some at Crusoe Res and there's few out paddling at Bridgewater.
"It doesn't make for much of a program when you have kids all over the place."
Misson welcomed Thursday's action by Bendigo council, which he praised as supportive of their plight.
"We're all impacted, but the Bendigo Rowing Club have been more impacted than us. Their programs have been crippled," he said.
"With kayaks and standard paddleboards, we can jump in the car and head elsewhere, but essentially we have stopped advertising our programs.
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"Even though our regular members can go elsewhere, those for beginners have had to stop and I dare say we will have to cancel our school programs when school starts in a couple of weeks.
"Full credit to the rowing club, they've been very pro-active in doing stuff, and we've been very supportive of them."
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