Toxic algae bloom threatens to shut down water sports, beach at Windsor Lake
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Toxic algae bloom threatens to shut down water sports, beach at Windsor Lake

WINDSOR, Colo. — For those trying to beat the heat, Mariea Turner and her two kids have found a top spot.

“You just try to balance yourself and not fall in,” Turner said as she pushed a paddleboard onto Windsor Lake. “It’s relaxing and fun. It gets the kids out on the lake, and it calms my mind.”

Windsor Lake is a premiere attraction in northern Colorado.

“It’s just fun to swim in and cool off,” said one beachgoer.

“The best part is just how close it is to everything here,” said Blaine Tonnies, who has worked at the lake for the past three summers. “It’s a five-minute drive. You can kind of just come hang out. There’s no charge for parking.”

“Windsor Lake and Boardwalk Park are, in general, our number one park,” said Eric Lucas, public services director for the Town of Windsor. “This is the jewel of Windsor in terms of our parks and trail system.”

Windsor Lake is the only free swim beach in northern Colorado. It also uniquely alternates dates between motorized boats and non-motorized boats throughout the summer and most of the year.

Which is why it’s painful for Lucas to announce the lake may have to close soon.

“Three of the last four years, we’ve ended up with blue-green algae in the lake,” Lucas said. “It’s always present, but when it really takes off in this heat we’re having, that’s when it becomes a true hazard.”

Exposure to blue-green algae can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulties, as well as skin irritation. It can be deadly to pets if they consume large amounts of the water.

While there are water treatment options, like installing fountains, that can be very costly for a lake the size of Windsor Lake.

“There are lots of companies out there that say you can treat the water with things,” Lucas said. “But they are very expensive. Do we spend thousands and thousands of dollars? Or do we hope that we don’t get blue-green algae this year or any other year?”

At the moment, town officials have posted signs around the lake.

“We’ve issued a precautionary warning to the users of the lake,” Lucas said. “But if (test results) come back positive, we will shut the lake down to use.”

For now, the people continue to come, and most understand what might come next.

“It would suck to close again,” Tonnies said.

“It is a bummer when that happens,” Turner said. “But we don’t want to get sick. You can’t ingest the water. I don’t want to get sick from lakes.”

“We want people to enjoy the lake, but also go home safe,” said Lucas.

Windsor Lake isn’t alone. Duck Lake in Denver’s City Park is closed due to high levels of the toxic algae, and both Sloans Lake and Cherry Creek State Park Lake are watching levels closely, as well.