(FOX 13)

VINEYARD, Utah — It was a "planting party" on the shores of Utah Lake.

Volunteers spread out along the shoreline, digging holes and dropping in natural grasses and plants. The more native species are being planted to help the lake's ecology.

"I love gardening," said Karol Patterson, who volunteered to help on Tuesday. "Love natural spaces and always wanted to plant with a project like this."

It comes at a big moment for Utah Lake.

"Symbolically? This is a turning point for the lake. We’ve spent 13 years trying to kill back invasive species, grass around here. This is really the first year we’re planting native species in their place," said Luke Peterson, the executive director of the Utah Lake Authority, which oversees lake restoration efforts.

Peterson told FOX 13 News they are making significant progress in eradicating phragmites and other invasive species along the lake shore. Success is also being reported on efforts to get rid of carp that has infested the waters.

"I think a lot of what people imagine about Utah Lake is based on how it was 30, 40 years ago," Peterson said. "Now it’s getting to where it’s extremely clean."

There has been a lot of attention and public pressure focused on Utah Lake. After a highly controversial cleanup proposal that would have had the lake dredged and islands built on it, lawmakers created the Utah Lake Authority and dedicated more resources toward restoring it. Groups like Conserve Utah Valley rallied the public to care more about Utah Lake.

Right now, the lake is very full thanks to another great winter in northern Utah. Partly to prevent flooding, the state engineer has ordered releases from Utah Lake up the Jordan River into the Great Salt Lake. That will continue for the time being.

"There’s been a lot of talk about the Great Salt Lake in recent years. Utah Lake is a major source of water to Great Salt Lake," Peterson said. "If Utah Lake dies? In all likelihood, the Great Salt Lake dies, too. So we’re a critical part of that ecosystem."

The Utah Lake Authority is organizing "planting parties" to help get native species along the shoreline. Volunteers can sign up to help out by clicking here.

Lee Adamson, who works at Explore Utah Valley (the area's visitor and convention bureau), was among those putting in some time on Tuesday.

"It’s an incredible lake and it’s great to see it get the attention it deserves and the love and care that it does," he said.

Fox 13 Reporter
Ben Winslow is FOX 13's reporter on Capitol Hill covering a wide variety of topics including politics, polygamy, vice and courts. He has been in the news business in Utah for more than 20 years now, working in radio, newspaper, television and digital news. Winslow has received numerous honors for his reporting, including a national Edward R. Murrow award; the Religion Newswriters Association Local TV News Report of the Year; the Utah Broadcaster's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Readers of Salt Lake City Weekly and Q Salt Lake have named him their "Best TV news reporter" for many years now. He co-hosts "Utah Booze News: An Alcohol Policy Podcast," covering the state's often confusing and quirky liquor laws. Winslow is also known for his very active Twitter account keeping Utahns up-to-date on important news.

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