Mary Park waters deemed safe for swimmersDespite its appearance, the Mary Park Beach in New Richmond is open for swimming.
By: By Jackie Grumish, New Richmond News
Despite its appearance, the Mary Park Beach in New Richmond is open for swimming.
The beach, which is open until 9 p.m. every day, is located just north of the playground at Mary Park. There is no lifeguard on duty, so patrons swim at their own risk.
According to Ed Thurman, environmental health specialist with St. Croix County, the beach in New Richmond hasn’t been closed yet this year.
Thurman said the local beach’s E. coli level is tested once a month using the state’s standards. So far, Mary Park Beach has not tested higher than a “normal” level.
That’s because of a new $1,400 debris boom installed in the water at Mary Park, said Joe Kerlin, parks and recreation director.
“The boom keeps floating algae and aquatic life out of the swimming area,” he said. “So far it’s also deterred the geese. Without the boom we’d be having the same problems as we did last year. We’re really happy with what it’s doing.”
Kerlin said future plans include eliminating the overgrown weeds in the water.
The latest reading for Mary Park Beach was three colony forming units (CFU), Thurman said. According to state standards anything between zero and 234 CFU is considered normal; 235-999 CFU is an advisory conditions; more than 1,000 CFU will close the beach.
“I never like to say it’s safe,” he said. “I just say it’s normal. Obviously don’t go there and drink the water. And you probably should wash your hands when you come out and before you prepare food.”
Thurman said there’s always E. coli in the water; however, the most common cause for high E. coli levels is goose feces.
“Joe Kerlin is doing a good job with that,” Thurman said. “They’re doing a good job of keeping it cleaned up.”
Thurman said he tests at random so that he gets a true reading and so that parks departments can’t clean just before he comes.
All water quality results are posted on the county website, along with the county’s Facebook page, Thurman said.
In addition to testing the water for E coli, Thurman said he also looks for blue-green algae blooms on the water’s surface and snails on the beach, which could indicate Schistosomiasis or “swimmer’s itch,” a reaction that includes itchy, raised bumps.
Some forms of algae are harmless, but not something people probably want to swim in, Thurman said.
“It’s a common sense deal,” he said. “There’s only so much I can do.”
Thurman said the recent hot weather hasn’t caused any additional problems for Mary Park as of yet.
“As the temperatures get warmer the bacteria will grow quicker but it’s not an apparent problem right now,” he said.
It’s not uncommon for E.coli levels to spike after a big rain, Thurman said.
“Pardon the pun, but that’s when (the goose feces are) all flushed into the water,” he said.
While Mary Park Beach is open to the public, Thurman said it’s always best to use common sense when visiting a public beach.
Three items that should cause a patron to think twice about swimming at a particular beach are:
• Goose feces on the beach
• Mats of algae on the water’s surface
• Snails on the beach
“Any bacteria can make anyone sick,” he said. “Bacteria is everywhere. Younger kids might be more susceptible to it, but you just need to teach your kids, watch your kids and be safe. Use common sense.”
Water is tested in 13 different locations throughout the county, Thurman said. All public beaches are tested, along with four different sites along the Apple River, he said. As of June 27, Star Prairie’s River Island Park tested the highest for E. coli CFUs at 122 – still well within the “normal” level. Glenwood City’s Hinman Park Beach tested the lowest at fewer than one CFU.