The 260-acre man-made Capitol Lake in downtown Olympia has been closed to swimmers and boaters since 2009, when the invasive New Zealand mud snail was found in the waters.

Share story

A petition is calling for the state to create a recreational and economic opportunity by allowing nonmotorized boats on Capitol Lake.

The 260-acre man-made reflecting pond in downtown Olympia has been closed to swimmers and boaters since 2009, when the invasive New Zealand mud snail was found in the waters.

So far, at least 48 people have signed an online petition started last month by Greg Schundler, an environmental research analyst and consultant from Olympia.

Schundler said his proposal offers an economic opportunity for the public or private sectors while the yearslong debate continues on whether to allow Capitol Lake to revert to an estuary.

The petition suggests that paddle-craft rentals — such as kayaks, canoes or rowboats — would act as a new “tourism anchor” for downtown Olympia.

“I don’t think the community can afford to underutilize that asset,” Schundler said. “There really is no logical reason why folks shouldn’t be able to get their boats on there.”

The invasive New Zealand mud snails are about as long as a grain of rice but can wreak havoc on the local food chain by outcompeting native aquatic snails and insects. The mud snail is an adept hitchhiker that can be spread on watercraft and even boots that come in contact with the water, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Curt Hart, communications director for the Department of Enterprise Services, said, “We would take any petition seriously,” adding that such input would be included in the process to determine the lake’s fate.