LAKE VIEW, Iowa | Standing at The Stone Piers on the west shore of Black Hawk Lake at dawn on Friday, a boy, probably 10 years old, pedals past on his bicycle. It is not yet 7 a.m. Rather than being fixated on a phone, he's peering across the lake as the sun glances back at him through a cool haze.
Workers at the Hancock Concrete Products plant two blocks south are already executing work orders. A trio of staff members at Kathy's Korner, a cafe two blocks west of Blossom Street (yes, a street named Blossom) has poured three or four pots of coffee already, with more on the way as Lake View rises to begin a long Labor Day weekend.
"It's seven miles around the lake," says Faith Ericsson, of nearby Lytton, Iowa, as she hops on her bicycle on Main Street. Ericsson has stopped to pick up a bucket of fresh tomatoes for salsa canning. While she waits, she can go for a spin. There isn't time for a ride down the 33-mile Sauk Rail Trail to Carroll, however. Maybe this weekend. (The trail is a result of conservation groups in Sac and Carroll counties putting their heads and greenbacks together to enhance exercise options, recreation and the joy of all outdoors.)
Ruth Green picks up a check from a customer at Camp Crescent on Black Hawk Lake's north shore. The city-run campground, which has 200 sites, is full this weekend. This campsite, which is opposite Black Hawk State Park's campground on the lake's south side, features mini-golf, a public beach, volleyball and immediate access to The Stone Piers and the statue of Chief Black Hawk, which was dedicated on Labor Day 83 years ago.
"The lake's name was changed to Black Hawk Lake at that time," Green says. "At first it was called Walled Lake because the glaciers built a wall around it. It was changed to Wall Lake, but had to be changed again because people confused it with the town of Wall Lake."
Chief Black Hawk, according to Lake View City Clerk/Administrator Scott Peterson, never made it to Lake View or the lake that bears his name. It was named so because Lake View arises in Sac County, named as a variation of the Sauk Tribe, which Black Hawk served as war chief.
Black Hawk Lake drives tourism, quality of life and recreational pursuits here. Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials began a $27-million lake restoration effort here in 2012 by killing off fish by introducing the chemical rotenone. Carp and other rough fish had stirred sediment in the bottom of the lake, reducing water clarity and stifling growth of other fish species, those anglers seek, such as walleye, bluegills, bass, catfish and muskies.
Has the lake bounced back?
"It's recovered," says veteran fisherman Dan Halterman, of Lake View. "The fishing has been fantastic. I must have caught 250 walleyes this summer."
"We caught bass this morning," adds Tony Hammond, of Lake View. "They were 14 inches."
The restoration, which will take years to complete, has resulted in a vegetation bloom on the lake, a source of frustration. A harvester, which ran for 77 days, cut 293 dump truck loads from the lake, grasses that were hauled away. Halterman likened it to growing pains. He'd rather have water clarity and vegetation than carp overrunning all other fish.
"You can't see as far down (in the water) now, but you could see six feet down earlier this summer, it was that clear," he says.
A healthier lake hooks more visitors on Lake View, whose population of 1,142 residents nearly doubles during summer months, Peterson says. A healthier lake brings more folks to town for busy weekends like this, a celebration that starts with a sidewalk-chalk event Saturday and keeps moving with a road rally and Stone Pier concert on Sunday, the last of five summer concerts there.
The weekend wraps up with a Belgian waffle feed sponsored by the Lake View Commercial Club on Monday morning. The feed raises funds with which the City of Lake View will construct a concrete splash pad in Speaker Park next spring. The fund drive is closing in on its $135,000 goal.
"It's what they call a 'spray-ground,'" Peterson says, pointing at the blue area on the pad where water will be sprayed, delighting young children who will gather there to play. The blue outline is in the shape of Black Hawk Lake.
I ask if the new splash pad will stand close to the municipal pool.
Peterson answers: "We don't have a municipal pool."
I don't suppose Lake View needs one, not when the town has a 957-acre "pool" residents and visitors continue to work on and work with, in the hopes it remains the epicenter of pride and activity here for generations to come.