Teenager honored for conservation work at state water convention

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Darryl Enriquez
Monday, August 8, 2011
— While some 13-year-olds dream of fast cars, Brad Baas yearns for fast boats.

Brad said he prefers water over asphalt, and he repeatedly has shown his preference during the past half-dozen years.

The son of Mary and Steve Baas, Brad has won a state stewardship award in the youth category because of his dedication in caring for a gem of a lake in north-central Walworth County.

The 13-year-old is deeply involved with the Turtle Lake Association. Baas helps put in and take out buoys (32 of them) and volunteers on the association's committees that traditionally are staffed by adults.

The awards were handed out by the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, a nationally recognized group that collaborates with the state Department of Natural Resources and the UW Extension.

Brad received his award at the WLP's spring convention in Green Bay.

Brad's parents own a summer cottage on the 145-acre, spring-fed Turtle Lake. It has a maximum depth of 30 feet.

"Brad understands that the lake is a living, breathing thing," said Cheryl Mitacek, president of the Turtle Lake Association. "While most youth think of the lake as recreation, he understands it's more than that. He has two parents that have that same outlook."

The Baases' Wisconsin Parkway cottage has been in the family for several generations. The property's many trees provide a canopy that's a cool resting place for those not swimming or boating. The temperature is said to be about 10 degrees cooler at the cottage than in nearby Elkhorn, the family's hometown.

"I enjoy seeing the changing stuff of the lake, to see things that are happening from the center of the lake to the shoreline," Brad said.

When he's not on the lake, Brad, a lanky teenager with a quick smile and curly hair bleached by the summer sun, enjoys soccer, basketball, track and cross country. In winter, Brad enjoys skiing and skating on his beloved lake.

"I like motor boats better than cars because the wind makes you feel like you're going fast," Brad said.

He attends Elkhorn Middle School, where he plays trumpet in the jazz band and belongs to 4-H.

Brad's tasks include recording lake levels and maintaining a record of the lake's rise and fall. Brad also tests water clarity when he does his rounds in a small aluminum motorboat.

Brad said his earliest memory of the lake was when he was 3 or 4 building sand castles on the shoreline.

Lake resident Elaine Gronert has monitored lake changes for nearly 17 years. She was one of the first to volunteer to record lake data for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Gronert is not as steady as she once was in a small motorboat. As Brad completes his regular water testing, Gronert watches, amazed at how the equipment has changed since she began as a DNR volunteer. It's become easier and more efficient to use, she aid.

"It's about time we turn the work over to the younger people," Gronert said.

Last updated: 6:11 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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