Floating farmhand: New boat turns P’Park Lake’s invasive flora into plant food

Floating farmhand: New boat turns P’Park Lake’s invasive flora into plant food
Weed eater: Prospect Park Alliance members on Friday took a maiden voyage aboard the green space’s new aquatic weed harvester, which will suck up and mulch unwanted plant species growing on Prospect Park Lake.
Prospect Park Alliance

This boat has a need for weed!

Prospect Park keepers unveiled a brand-new vessel on Friday that will suck up unwanted weeds growing on the surface of Prospect Park Lake and spit them out as mulch, keeping the water clean and the meadow’s noninvasive plant species fertilized, according to the green space’s chief steward.

“This aquatic weed harvester is essential,” said Sue Donoghue, president of meadow conservancy the Prospect Park Alliance. “It provides an environmentally sound method to control the growth of aquatic weeds, which choke the lake’s ecosystem and contribute to a variety of water-quality issues.”

The floating plant harvester will gobble up “truck loads” of aquatic primrose and duck weed, which if left unchecked can grow across the surface of the lake in large, unsightly swaths, making life difficult for the body’s welcome native flora — and mucking up park-goers fishing trips and boat rides, another Alliance employee said.

“The lake gets a lot of weeds,” said forestry technician Marty Woess.

But the $140,000 orange boat powered by rotating paddles on its sides won’t be much help at all if the toxic algae that has grown on the lake for the past four years returns, according to an Alliance spokeswoman, who said it won’t rid the water of the deadly bloom.

The recently deployed vessel replaces an older model that park rangers affectionately dubbed the “Lake Mess Monster,” which the Alliance decommissioned in 2014 after a 20-year run. The new boat is custom-made and smaller than its predecessor, allowing park workers to navigate shallower areas of the lake, but still big enough to serve as a stable platform for other waterborne tasks not possible aboard a simpler row boat, according to Woess, who captained the Lake Mess Monster for five years before it conked out.

“You can’t do some of the work on a small boat because you’ll fall into the lake,” she said. “But on here, we have a platform for all sorts of stuff.”

Woess will pilot the paddle-powered weed eater about once a week, docking it on the lake’s uninhabited Duck Island between trips, she said, and the mulch it produces will either be used to feed other park plants, or sold off to local green thumbs.

Park stewards bought the watercraft with taxpayer funds allocated by Brooklynites under participatory-budgeting processes overseen by Park Slope Councilman Brad Lander, who described the boat as a “celebration of democracy,” and his colleague Matthieu Eugene, who said the “universe is made of 70 to 75 percent water” that “we have to do everything possible to protect” at the boat’s unveiling.

And in continuing with the democratic spirit that led to the vessel’s purchase, Alliance leaders are asking locals to submit names for it — although they’ll task a so-called nominating committee to filter those suggestions to avoid christening a “Boaty McBoatface,” the spokeswoman said, referencing the popular, but overruled, crowd-sourced moniker for a ship British officials asked the public to name in 2016.

But if the new boat’s captain has her way, its name will be a nod to its now-beached ancestor.

“I’m a big fan of the Lake Mess Monster,” Woess said. “I would call it Messy II.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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