With temperatures reaching the 90s, a refreshing dip in a cool body of water has likely never sounded better.
On Friday, Cascade Lake opened for the first time this summer, marking the start of its second swim season.
The week before, Foster Arend Beach (4051 E. River Road NE) opened to swimmers after a yearlong hiatus.
This year at Cascade Lake Beach will be a little different, with only Friday evening and weekend hours open to swimming to allow for mining activity work in the lake.
Many swimmers are likely hoping for a year without weeklong closures due to elevated bacteria levels.
Slather on your sunscreen, pull on your swimsuit, grab your floaties, and prepare to hit the beach with these four things to know:
Why the mining?
The mining contract, which was extended in 2014, expires in October 2023, and is intended to help expand the lake. As part of the contract, the city included a clause that would allow them to pause mining for 60 days. The city took advantage of the clause last summer, but opted not to do so this year, in hopes of having mining completed for good this year.
"They said if they were able to continue straight through, that they very likely by the end of July would be done collecting all the materials they are after, so the mining activity will be done this summer instead of potentially going on two more years," said Ben Boldt, recreation supervisor for Rochester's Parks and Recreation department. "We decided with that in mind, we’d rather just let them get finished."
How will that impact swimmers?
The weekday mining work will affect the hours the lake will be open to swimmers, but Boldt said there is no concern that the work will affect water quality. In 2020, the lake struggled with elevated bacteria levels, which prompted two closures. (More on that soon.)
Boldt said the city has already conducted two weeks of testing on the lake water, and that the "numbers have been very good, very low amounts of bacteria, so we are not concerned about" mining having that kind of impact.
Water quality — how is it monitored?
The city takes weekly samples at both of its beaches each week and brings the samples to be tested at the Southeastern Minnesota Water Analysis Laboratory.
It takes about 24 hours after collection for the city to get the results.
Is water quality going to be an issue this summer?
It's hard to know. Boldt said the city hasn't taken any steps to mitigate potential issues because it's too early to know what those issues may be.
"Over the course of last summer, we weren’t able to identify a single cause," he said. "We weren’t able to say, 'This is the cause, this is how we can fix it.' "
Boldt said the city is in a "monitor and research" phase to see if there is something that is more likely to impact water quality. Factors that can impact water quality include rainfall, runoff, heat and wildlife.
Cascade Lake Beach isn't alone in having an occasional issue with elevated bacteria levels. Last summer, swimming areas on Minneapolis lakes were also closed.
"There are a lot of places out across the state where there isn’t even any water testing," Boldt said. "We feel it is important to offer safe amenities ... We want to monitor quality and keep safe experiences for everybody."