SNOHOMISH — David Spencer spends most of the summer swimming in Blackmans Lake.
He’s lived there for almost 20 years now. He can see the Cascade Range from his back yard, along with the 63-acre lake and a pair of bald eagles that have made a nest in the park across the water.
Spencer and his neighbor Kay Ditzenberger are the founding members of a group called The Friends of Blackmans Lake. The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for Feb. 11 at the fire station in downtown Snohomish.
The plan is to test the quality of the lake, just east of Highway 9, and then share the results. The Junior Sportsmen’s Club at Snohomish High School has been taking water samples since November. The students are going to explain what they’ve found at the first meeting.
Ditzenberger’s family has lived on the lake for 35 years.
“A lot of people are out there swimming and boating and fishing,” she said. “We just want to make sure it stays healthy.”
The students are taking samples from a few areas, such as Hill Park, just across the lake from Ditzenberger’s house. She isn’t sure what to expect.
Phosphorus levels in the water were high about 20 years ago, according to data collected by Snohomish County. That can cause algae to grow. Officials found the amount of the mineral had decreased years later, and the lake was considered safe.
State records say the lake is polluted, although it was last analyzed in the 1990s. Back then researchers found high levels of fecal coliform, possibly from farm animals upstream or birds in the water.
“To our knowledge, this kind of comprehensive testing has not been done on a regular basis,” Spencer said. “If the lake is in great health, then we’ll know that. But I think it’s important to keep testing on an ongoing basis.”
The students are reviewing a number of properties, including bacteria, water temperature and oxygen saturation. They’ve all been certified to do this work by the Sno-King Watershed Council, said Bob Roush, director of the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Association and coordinator of the high school club.
Roush and Louis Boggerie have been working with the kids. Boggerie is a science teacher at Snohomish High School, and also is secretary of the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Association.
Each of the students is receiving community service credit for their work, which they need to graduate.
“It’s huge for the kids to get real-world experience,” Boggerie said.
Boggerie and Roush don’t live on the lake, but are passionate about taking care of the environment. Roush sees the project as a way to continue the legacy of his friend Bob Heirman.
“I was with Bob Heirman three days before he passed away,” Roush said. “I made a commitment to him that I was going to carry on his endeavours … That’s what drives me.”
The pair met in the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Association and knew each other for about 20 years.
Heirman, who was 84, lived near Blackmans Lake and was dedicated to caring for the outdoors. He had been the sportsmen’s secretary-treasurer for nearly 60 years. Heirman Wildlife Preserve at Thomas’ Eddy in Snohomish is named after him.
Heirman tricked Ditzenberger into joining the sportsmen’s group years ago.
“He said, ‘Wait a minute, do you have 10 extra bucks?’ ” she said.
She wrote him a check.
“He came back and had a little yellow certificate, and I was now an official member,” she said. “I started going to the meetings and met these wonderful men who love the county dearly.”
Boggerie, Roush and Spencer gathered in Ditzenberger’s living room last week. The sunset had turned a blanket of clouds bright red through the window.
Ditzenberger walked to the back deck where she’s made memories with her family. She talked about a time when her children found duck eggs near the water. They took them to the kitchen and ran them in cold water as they hatched.
“We’ve watched the lake and have loved the beauty of it,” she said.
The Friends of Blackmans Lake first meeting will be 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 11, at the Snohomish fire station, 1506 Avenue D. They plan to meet in the Harvey Room, which can fit up to 90 people. All are welcome.