The search for a sandy bottom
Craig Colman has discovered a way to wipe out weeds from the lake bottom in swimming areas. "I had a weedy beach. I had to come up with something," says the inventor of the BeachGroomer. Coleman and his wife, LaRae, have a lot and home on Little ...
Craig Colman has discovered a way to wipe out weeds from the lake bottom in swimming areas.
"I had a weedy beach. I had to come up with something," says the inventor of the BeachGroomer.
Coleman and his wife, LaRae, have a lot and home on Little Pelican, a lake south of Detroit Lakes, Minn. They built their year-round home on the lake in 2000. Coleman has been a loyal Pelican lake swimmer for years.
His grandparents built one of the first homes on the lake in 1933, he says. A nice little lake, but it's always had a weedy bottom. Colman, 52, a former highway contractor who co-owned Custom Plastics in Fargo, has been knocking around ideas for knocking out lake-bed weeds for some time.
"This idea has been bouncing around in my head for a few years -- cleaning the beach through pressured water," Coleman says. "Where the current runs swift in the river, there's no weeds. So I knew that moving water could create a sandy bottom."
What he came up with is a contraption -- powered by an electric turf pump -- that spins plastic bars in a 15-foot diameter arc. A chain link dragline hanging from the bars helps pick the weeds and muck off the lake bottom.
Late in the summer of 2002, he had a prototype ready for demonstration. With a representative from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on hand, he used his portable machine to clean the swimming area in front of his brother's cabin on Little Pelican.
"I was a little skeptical at first," LaRae says. "I didn't think it would work until I saw it go in the lake."
According to Coleman, his BeachGroomer machine can be permitted for specific sites by the DNR. "It's environmentally friendly," he says.
Last year, he sold his interest in Custom Plastics to run BeachGroomer full time. In 2003, he sold 110 units. They are manufactured at Productive Alternatives in Fergus Falls, Minn.
Coleman says he has 100 units pre-sold for this year. He is working through a network of nine retail partners in western Minnesota.
The machines, which weigh 25 pounds and can be moved easily from site to site on a swimming area, sell for $999. A $200 option adds a fountain and aeration system. Coleman says the BeachGroomer can also be used to water lawns and power wash decks.
Robin Johnson, owner of Lakeland True Value Hardware & General Store in Dunvilla, Minn., says he's sold about 30 BeachGroomers, with no complaints, no returns.
"It's been fun to have a product where people are pleased," Johnson says. "There's enough marginal lake property out there being developed where this thing will work well."
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Gerry Gilmour at (701) 241-5560