Atascadero Lake 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Atascadero Lake runneth over. Recent rains have pushed our annual rainfall totals beyond the annual average and the “Jewel of Atascadero” sits full-bodied and shimmering in the late-winter sun.

There is no replacement for Mother Nature when it comes to keeping our Atascadero Lake full, but she is tended by a local group of lagophiles who have put in volumes of labor to maintain the beauty and health of our “jewel.” The Friends of Atascadero Lake are indeed that — friends of our precious lake — as well as the 2017 Atascadero Chamber of Commerce Organization of the Year.
From towing out swampy algae bloom to financing the installation of a well up the hill on Portola Road that pumps thousands of gallons of water into the lake during the hottest and driest parts of the year.

When the well is running, the electricity bill runs the organization thousands of dollars every year. You can find the inlet for the well water at the corner of Marchant Avenue and Portal Road from where it runs under the streets to the northern corner of the lake, and on really hot days it pours a steady stream into the lake to offset the constant evaporation of lake water.
The Friends of Atascadero Lake formed by lake-area neighbors in 2013, when they saw a need for additional support for the lake and ongoing severe drought was in the midst of bringing water levels to the lowest known and in 2015 it was a field.

Remember the goats? That was legendary.

But I digress.

All the while Mother Nature was reminding us all who is in charge of our little cosmic marble, the Friends were hard at work doing what they could to prepare for the return of water.
That water came in 2017, when January saw 12.74 inches and the lake went from empty to full in one single season.

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It has thrived since, and in the past months, the lake has been a temporary residence for many wonderful birds of all kinds — hawks, pelicans, egrets, herons, ducks, geese, and falcons. Shout out to our bird-watcher camera folks for being dedicated to capturing the beauty — Sharon West, George Westlund, Rick Evans, Wesley Frame, Sam McMillan, and the others.

When the lake is so full, and so beautiful, we might get complacent and forget how fragile and how special it all is.

Oh, by the way … don’t feed the waterfowl. That means ducks, geese, and other great birds around the area. Please, contain yourself and read the signs.

Did I digress again? So, the Friends are like a team of superheroes looking after our lake. It is awesome to have them and there are really cool things being planned.

There is interest in stocking the lake with sterile trout, which is a multi-agency project with the State Fish and Wildlife involved. Another project that has some heavy lifting still needed is an information kiosk trail around the lake with multiple locations to provide a deeper education to the natural flora and fauna that inhabits the area.

The lake is not just an attraction for traveling birds, but also a place where hundreds of people visit every day, walking around one of the most beautiful parks in the area. The recently installed playground at the park attracts hoards of parents and children. At times, the playground looks like an abandoned Jolly Rancher being swarmed by ants on a summer day, and there is no better backdrop than a sparkling lake to multiply the joy.

If you want to see what I mean, mark your calendar for Saturday, May 18 for the Friends of Atascadero Lake’s 4th annual LakeFest. It will be epic.

The event is a fundraiser for the Friends and is a treat. This year, The Long Shots play live at the bandstand from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. event.

During the day, there will be wine and beer, food and vendors, and stand-up paddleboard races. But the crowds will tell you what the highlight of the event is.

Remember the playground-ants reference, the Cardboard Boat Races are like that, but for all ages so it is more like a swarm of fuzzy bees gathering on the shore of the lake as contestants ready to test if their feats of cardboard and duct tape engineering are seaworthy.

There are two classes for the cardboard races — Open and Kids. Both classes have volumes of entertainment on the spectrum of what can happen when you get groups to build homemade cardboard boats. Let the games begin!

The race pits teams against nature as they attempt to paddle their boats out past the buoy and back on the lake, as gravity and waterlogging set to work on the watercraft. Some make it out and back, and some don’t. A lifeguard is on duty to assist.

There are awards for the winners of the races as well as judges awards for Authentic and Unique; Best Costume/Theme; and Floatability.

Kids are 14 and under, and it is hard to decide which is more entertaining — kids or adults.
For more information about LakeFest or to get involved in one of the other projects the Friends are working on, go to friendsofatascaderolake.com or call Nancy Hair at 805-674-3850.
Save the cardboard and start hoarding duct tape!

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