SAWM’s annual fundraiser sets records

Spirits kept high as water remains low
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Leader Photo by Greg Mellis Golfers waiting to tee off on the 10th hole Tuesday are greeted by volunteer Monique Knope. The annual SAWM golf outing filled the Golden Sands Golf Course in Cecil. The annual event is SAWM’s largest fund raiser.

Shawano Area Waterways Management (SAWM) held its annual fundraiser Tuesday at the Golden Sands in Cecil.

The SAWM’s golf outing is its biggest fundraising event of the year, and board member Tony Zielinski believed this year’s event was “record-setting” in the amount of money raised for the program. Zielinski estimated that 160 members attended this year and raised around $1,500 for SAWM. All donations and time spent are given freely by volunteers. Zielinski stated that the high attendance is a “reflection of the community getting behind a valuable resource.”

A spirit of fun prevailed. There was a putting contest, a multitude of prizes to win, and refreshments to be had.

“It’s a good time, good people,” said golfer Jeremy Buenning.

“This golf outing is so critical in helping support the waterways. It’s cool to see people come out,” said golfer J.C. Reinke.

Though the money raised helps fund all of SAWM’s various responsibilities, from ensuring water clarity to monitoring invasive species, one of the most pressing issues facing Shawano waterways that drew in participants was combating low water levels.

SAWM officials report levels to be 5-6 inches below the usual level, while others claim some areas have seen more drastic decreases. Karen Fuerst, waterfront resident, said that there are parts of the river near her house that previously came up to her shoulders that she is now able to walk across.

Liz Trinko, an event volunteer and longtime Shawano resident, expressed concern for the safety danger low water levels present. Trinko recounted an incident in which her son was on the water and crashed into a sandbar.

“He fell headfirst and was lucky he didn’t break his neck … it’s dangerous.” Trinko said.

Jill Whiteman, an event volunteer and friend of Trinko, said the lowered water levels are dangerous “even for people who know the water; it creates new obstacles that no one knows about.”

Beyond water safety, participants were concerned with the impact lower water levels will have on tourism and the revenue brought into the community by those who come for water activities. Zielinski stressed that stable water levels are “very important” for Shawano’s economy.

Shawano County Administrative Coordinator Brent Miller approximated water-related activities bring the area about $67 million in sales.

Tom Haberkorn said he believes the fundraiser is important because “helping the lake helps business.”

Zielinski is optimistic about the future of stabilizing water levels. He said that, in accordance with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), there is “hope to raise levels within a few days.”

Zielinski was grateful for all of the businesses and participants this year, stating that “they have given unconditional support. Our event would be nothing without them.”

Zielinski mentioned that this golf outing also serves to honor the memory of Douglas Knope, a dedicated member of SAWM who had previously led the event for many years.