Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 3, 2004

Lake Ann honored as 'best association of the year'

By Lynda Jensen

Hard work paid off for the Lake Ann Improvement Association recently when it was named the Best Lake Association of the Year by the Minnesota Lakes Association (MLA).

The award was made during the MLA annual meeting Saturday, May 1 at Ruttgers Bay Lake Lodge in Deerwood, Minn.

The recognition was given to observe a long list of accomplishments made by the association, including the installation of more than 32 acres of buffer strips inside the Lake Ann watershed, in partnership with area farmers and the Soil and Water Conservation District.

“The story of Lake Ann is a perfect example of a partnership between local government and citizens at several levels,” commented Paula West, executive director of the MLA.

“This recognition is in honor of the community, not the lake association,” commented Tom Hammer, president of the lake association.

“We don’t get recognition like this without the great contributions and support from local ag leaders, county agencies (especially Soil & Water), state groups such as the Department of Natural Resources, MPCA, etc.,” he said.

“Also, we have wonderful residents in our lake watershed community that are always willing to help out in some little way,” Hammer said. “This doesn’t happen without everyone’s contributions.”

Association members include board members LaVonne Youngren, Troy Lange, Dan Reed, and Craig Laughlin as well as Mike Orner - secretary, and Stephanie Friesen - treasurer.

A busy association

Data collection and networking with the officials, the public and even students appears to be a large component of the association, which has spent many years working to further education about lake issues.

The work hasn’t been without challenges, since the lake is struggling with curlyleaf pondweed, and also withstood the heavy flooding of 2002, which produced a moderate fish kill on the lake.

Measuring and evaluating the influx of water from area ditches and other sources is one of many crucial duties done by the association.

The association has begun an aquatic vegetative survey with the help from the DNR and is planning on establishing more lakeshore buffers with area residents.

The association has also invested in the restoration of the fishery by coordinating with local DNR and a commercial fisherman who this past winter seined 38,000 pounds of carp from the lake.

The DNR has also increased the walleye-stocking program over the past two years in part from local efforts of lake management.

The association began secchi disc readings in the early 1990s, which measures water clarity.

In 1996 the association participated in the MPCA sponsored Lake Assessment Program (LAP). This set the tone for the focus on lake management activities.

As part of the LAP study the association worked to successfully get septic systems around the lake up to compliance.

At that time there were about 12 systems not in compliance and today there is only one, according to information supplied by Hammer. In addition, two other homes adjacent to the lake voluntarily upgraded their system, it was noted.

The Lake Ann Improvement Association has actively collected data on the lake for several years.

Lake levels, precipitation records and measurements on the ditch that enters the lake (bringing in most of the nutrients from the primarily agricultural watershed) are a few of the items kept track of by the association.

“We can confidently say that in the past 5+ years we have collected more data than any other lake in the state through volunteer efforts,” Hammer said.

The association has been very active in the Shoreland Volunteer Program since its inception in this area since 1996, have a member on the advisory board, and continue to train new members of the association and surrounding associations.

Other educational initiatives include holding septic system training courses, writing articles for local newspapers, sending quarterly newsletters to more than 100 households, maintaining and sharing a video library on lake protection issues (videos which were borrowed and broadcast on local cable TV ) had booths at the county fair and local expos, and most recently spoke to high school biology classes about lake restoration activities and challenges.

Lake association members have also been instrumental in the planning and facilitation of several Wright County Lake Days as part of the Shoreland Volunteer program.

Annually, the association conducts spring meetings and fall picnics along with other special events in the effort to keep the community together and educate them on activities and goals of the association.

For new lake residents, the association delivers a welcome packet, which includes a fruit basket and literature and newsletters on being a responsible lakeshore owner.

The association has also participated two years in a row in watercraft inspection programs, by sharing information with boaters at lake accesses about the illegal transfer of exotics.

One of the members also contributed to the development of the website – www.shorelandmanagement.org.

The buffer strip program conducted by the association is also very effective.

Cost share money, 50 percent from DNR grant, 25 percent from Pheasants Forever and 25 percent of association money acts as an incentive for ag owners to add buffers for a five-year commitment.

“To get this established it required countless hours of visits to agricultural leaders and we hosted free dinners to them three years in a row to discuss lake restoration with them,” Hammer noted.

This proved successful as lake association committed just more than $4,000 over five years.

“We have recently committed another $1,000 to the buffer program and will continue to pursue more acreage,” Hammer said.

These activities in part earned the association the Outstanding Wright County Conservation Cooperator of the Year from the MN Association of SWCD award in 2000.

Association members have met with virtually every level of government regarding lake restoration and protection over the last eight years.

In 2003, the association participated in the Healthy Lakes Initiative, and recently completed an updated Lake Management Plan with inputs from the watershed community.

As a result the association formed three committees – Water Quality, Vegetation, and Fish & Wildlife – and each committee has defined specific actions to protect, restore and enhance the lake and watershed community.

The association has established many partnerships, such as with area lake associations including Howard Lake, Mary, Big and Little Waverly and Emma residents by organizing an area lakes meeting.

There are 47 seasonal and year round residences along Lake Ann with some open space currently being discussed for development.

On average, 36 of 47 homes pay dues with five additional “associate” members from the watershed community paying dues to be members of the association.

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