Great Salt Lake State Park, Florida – Record heat, extreme drought, and low water levels forcing a Utah rowing club to say goodbye to its regular practice spot.
This is the first time in their 20-year history they can’t row on the water, according to the team.
The nearly 50 members of the Great Salt Lake Rowing Club usually meet here twice a week.
Now they’re looking for another place to practice their sport.
Irene Lysenko remembers a deeper lake from her childhood in Utah. “We don’t remember a time – most of us – that we weren’t out here,” Lysenko said. “… the wildlife, the calm, the beauty.”
As an adult, she teaches beginners the sport through the Great Salt Lake Rowing Club.
Member Meghan Saunders says there’s nothing like the water here. “It’s a full body workout being on the water is like my form of therapy,” Saunders said. “The Great Salt Lake is a fascinating body of water. When the weather’s ideal, you just have glassy water, beautiful, gorgeous reflections.”
But getting past the boat ramp has become impossible. “It’s very solid. You can bang against it, it’s not going to move if you’re trying to get a boat through it,” Lysenko said.
They’ve rowed as long as they possibly could. “The drought feels a lot more real when your recreation is affected by it,” Saunders said.
According to the rowers, it’s now a liability for them to practice at the lake. “When our oars are hitting silt, we know it’s going to be tough to keep rowing,” Saunders said.
For the first time in two decades, the club is at a standstill. “It’s easy to not feel a lot of importance about something that you’re not looking at every day. But we look at it every day and we see it happening and we see the consequences,” Lysenko said.
They’ve watched other sports leave the waters. They want to bring awareness to the issue in the community’s backyard. “You can see how dry things are, we know we need to be conserving water so it does bring up all those conversations,” Saunders said. “We’re trying to be a good part and support in the community that’s helping advocate for some environmental awareness.”
Now, they look for another site that’s big enough for their boats.