Monterey man swims across Lake Garfield to help fund weed cleanup

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MONTEREY — It took him an hour and a half, but Paul Epstein swam the nearly two-mile length of Lake Garfield on Tuesday.

"The weeds were very bad on my swim," Epstein said. "They've gotten worse every year."

And that was the point of the swim — to raise money for cleaning up the lake's invasive milfoil problem.

The lake has been choked by Eurasian milfoil for years, but residents of this small town say this summer has been particularly bad and have advocated for an aggressive cleanup. The town government has set up a working group composed of owners of lakefront property, residents and Town Hall. The group hopes to have a solution by October.

In the meantime, Epstein moved forward with his fundraiser swim.

"I trained last year," he said as he dried off on the beach. "I wanted to see if it was doable."

It was.

Epstein set off from the lake's east side Monday morning at an area inaccessible except by boat. The lake curls out of sight from the town beach on the west side and opens up to the east into the lake's main body of water. That span took Epstein an hour. When he came around the corner, and into sight of the beach, he was on the home stretch.

Jim Zell and his two sons, Caleb and Perry, paddled out in their canoe to meet Epstein by the lake's island at the eastern end of the town beach visibility. His wife, Jodi Ratner, waited for them at the beach.

"We've had a house in Monterey for 23 years," she said. "They came to cheer [Epstein] on."

Seymour Zager drove his boat alongside Epstein from start to finish. Zager said he was happy to spot the swimmer on his trek across the lake to keep him safe.

A small crowd awaited Epstein at the beach. He received applause as he swam through the public swimming area to the sand. Among those waiting was Don Welsch, a neighbor of Epstein's.

"I'm glad Paul is stepping up," Welsch said. "He's getting attention and money to solve the problem."

Epstein said he raised about $3,000 from approximately 40 donors. The lake has become increasingly filled with milfoil, he said, due to climate change and the recent warm winters in the region.

"I've never seen it this bad," he said. "I had to take action."


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