Locally-owned business tackles lake weed removal.
Few of us like the creeping sensation of a surprise encounter with lake weeds while swimming. Tom Suerth, founder of Waterfront Restoration, knows this firsthand from growing up on Long Lake. “His dad used to clear the area around their lakefront by scuba diving,” says Ben Maki, Waterfront Restoration’s marketing manager. “He would remove the weeds for Tom and his brother and sister, so they could enjoy a weed-free lakefront.”
As soon as they were old enough, Suerth and his siblings would help their dad with the process. After the neighbors started requesting their services, Suerth knew he was onto something and founded Waterfront Restoration in 2003—while he was still in high school.
Waterfront Restoration’s scuba diving method of weed removal may sound exotic, but, in reality, the process is very similar to what you experience in your own garden. If you pull a weed out by the root system, it will take longer for it to come back, Maki explains. “As far as how long it lasts, we typically see around three to four weeks as how long it takes for a little bit of regrowth,” he says.
Pulling out the lake weeds by hand is a longer-lasting solution than machine harvesters or chemicals. It’s also a lot more delicate, Maki says. “Harvesting is basically just a lawn mower, so when you’re cutting up these weeds, it’s spreading the seeds a lot more. It can actually create more invasive weed species than are growing to begin with.”
And if your aim is lake health, chemicals aren’t a foolproof bet either. Aside from killing indigenous and invasive species alike, chemicals create another type of lake mess. “The weeds aren’t actually being removed,” Maki says. “They’re dying off and falling to the bottom [of the lake]. That’s creating a lot of muck, which is very challenging to remove.”
Longtime customer Cathy Sweet of Wayzata says she appreciates Waterfront Restoration’s chemical-free methods. Suerth reached out to her after initially launching the business, and she hasn’t spent a summer without its services ever since. “They’ve grown tremendously,” she says. “I remember when it was two guys, sometimes four. Now, it’s two trucks, and they’re in and out really quickly.” Aside from using the scuba diving services a few times a season, Sweet has the team out weekly to clear her lakefront on Lake Minnetonka. “They are punctual. They are flexible, and they do a phenomenal job,” she says.
Waterfront Restoration starts services mid-May, and Maki recommends tackling that first growth of the season toward the end of May and into June. “Usually, the initial visit is when the majority of the work is being done, and then it’s just maintenance for the remainder of the season,” he says.
Waterfront Restoration can also customize its weed removal service to customers’ needs, including cleanups for special events. It also offers other lakefront management services, including zebra mussel cleanup and watercraft inspections.