DES MOINES, Iowa — Since the early 2000s Easter Lake in Des Moines looked like a murky, muddy pit. Now, after decades of planning and work, it is finally full, clear and open to the public.
In 2018 crews removed a total of about 670,000 cubic yards of sediment which is about 25,000 dump trucks full. Not only sediment, but trash was pulled out.
“We pulled out everything from things you’d expect, lots and lots of single-use plastics, plastic water bottles, lots of Styrofoam, we’ve pulled out over 500 tires out of the lake, we honestly lost count after 500 so it’s much more than that. Kids toys, lots of shoes, that’s kind of a surprising one to me,” Easter Lake Watershed Coordinator Julie Perreault said.
Perreault said Easter Lake’s tributary is Yeader Creek which flows from the Des Moines airport to the lake, so think of major roads, Southeast 14th, Southwest 9th, whatever you see in those streets, the trash and oil and sediment, will end up in Yeader Creek and then in Easter Lake.
It took about six years for crews to restore the lake, making it an average of three feet deeper than before. But the public needs to do their part to keep it this clean, by slowing down stormwater and reducing storm runoff.
“Simplest way, a rain barrel, just connect to a downspout of your house, that will just temporarily store water and then you can use it to water your gardens, your flowers, all sorts of stuff. Then there are other things, a really popular practice right now are rain gardens, which essentially is a landscaping feature that’s functional, so it’s pretty, it has lots of prairie plants so it’s good for pollinators. But it’s a depression in the ground where it collects water and then it just naturally infiltrates into the ground,” Perreault said.
These conservation practices are all voluntary, but the watershed crew has already helped more than 200 homes near the lake make these changes.
In restoring Easter Lake, crews made some recreational changes as well. With the excess sediment crews built up the walls of the lake and constructed nine additional jetties, meaning there is more space and shoreline for people to fish and hang out around the lake.
Crews also put in 130 fish habitat structures for fishing. But unfortunately, they are tiny, and you’ll have to wait a couple of years for the fish to grow.
Another big aspect of restoration is a new 4.1-mile path that wraps around the entire lake called the Mark C. Ackelson trail.
There are also concessions stands and boat rentals available this summer.
There is an event on Sunday to celebrate the reopening of Easter Lake from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. near 2883 Evergreen Avenue at the Easter Lake Beach.