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January 7, 2016 Comments (0) Conservation / Wildlife

Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!

By Steve Weisman


(photo by Steve Weisman) Water is running into the Okoboji chain of lakes out of Big Spirit. This photo of the fish barrier below Lower Gar will be extremely important this spring as the Asian carp try to enter the Iowa Great Lakes system.

As a former teacher and coach, I’ve always liked motivational speakers and quotes that challenge us to do better and to “reach for the stars.” There are a lot of great ones out there, but there is one that still gives me goose bumps. I know I have mentioned this one before, but the one that gets me the most is one from the late Jim Valvano.

The year was 1993 and the evening of the annual Espy Awards. The words came from Valvano, the former North Carolina State men’s basketball coach. Terminally ill with bone cancer, Valvano shared with the audience just how much he cherished and relished life and how much he wished that everybody could do the same. The entire speech was awesome, and there are so many moving parts, but these are the words that moved me the most. Valvano said…

“We should do three things every day of our lives.

  • Number one, laugh. You should laugh every day.
  • Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought.
  • Number three is that you should have your emotions moved to tears.”

Valvano continued, “If you laugh, if you think and if you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

How powerful is that? It’s really about being ALIVE and LIVING life, no matter the cards we are dealt. It’s not about being fair; no it’s about living life to the fullest and making the most of our opportunities.

Then Valvano ended his speech with these seven words of encouragement that I think of every day…”Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!”

No matter our age or our calling in life, following Valvano’s advice can help make us all that much better.


Relating to our lakes: never give up

As I look at our battle to protect our lakes, I encourage all of us to remember Valvano’s words. Yes, we have seen unwanted exotics get in our lakes. We dodged the bullet so to speak with the Asian carp threat, and the electric fish barrier effectively stopped their entrance. With the water running over the spillway at Big Spirit, this will probably be critical this coming spring.

Of course, our fight against zebra mussels has not been as successful. First discovered in 2012, they have expanded to be along most shorelines in East Okoboji, West Okoboji, Upper and Lower Gar and Lake Minnewashta.

Yes, this is frustrating, BUT we cannot just throw in the towel. Valvano’s words echo in my mind, “Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!”

In this time of frustration, I go to the words of Fisheries Biologist Mike Hawkins, who has worked so diligently to improve and protect our lakes. “Zebra mussels will impact our lakes, but they will not ‘ruin’ our lakes. Recreation, fishing, and the natural environment will not collapse and our lakes will continue on. I believe this is an important consideration as we face a problem that does not have a clear solution. Zebra mussels are here to stay; at least until a breakthrough is found, and we must continue working on other critical but related issues.”

His next words are now part of my rally cry! “Studies from around the world have shown the impacts of invaders can be mitigated by maintaining healthy native plant and animal populations and protecting water quality. Our community’s efforts to reduce sediment and nutrients entering the lakes, protect shorelines from erosion and over-development, and enhance aquatic habitat are all critical in our long-term battle against zebra mussels and other aquatic invaders. It makes sense that a healthy lake ecosystem is more resilient to an invader.”

At the same time, efforts to stop or slow the spread of other invading exotics are paramount. I encourage all of us living here in the Iowa Great Lakes and those that visit or reside here in the summer to become part of the solution. Join one of the many protective and environmental organizations that work so diligently to protect our resources.

As a member of the Okoboji Protective Association (OPA), I extend the opportunity to become part of the OPA. It’s a group of dues paying members dedicated to preserving the lakes for future generations.

OPA goals include the following:

  • preventing invasive species
  • preserving and protecting the wetlands in the Iowa Great Lakes watersheds
  • participating in the control of lake developments to prevent environmental threats
  • promoting sustainable urban and agricultural development that won’t upset the delicate ecological balance of the lakes and watershed
  • informing the community of any concerns and actions that must be taken to act on those ecological concerns

For membership information and for more detailed information on the OPA, go to www.okobojiprotectiveassociation.org and also take time to visit the OPA’s Facebook page. The Facebook page shares the love of the “Lakes” through a wide range of photos taken throughout the year.

As we move into 2016, I hope we can all work together to protect and enhance our area lakes. Above all, remember Valvano’s words, “Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!

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