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Celebrating more than 50 years as a lake association

October 29, 2007

It began in 1951 as the Lake Washington Property Owners Association

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

With what would later become the Lake Washington Improvement Association, the Lake Washington Property Owners Association started out more as a social group in 1951, with just 40 members.

Now, 56 years later, the association still knows how to have a good time, but more importantly, it works to preserve and improve the quality of its beloved lake.

Currently, there are 220 members involved in the association. It estimates there are close to 400 property owners around the lake, and one of the association’s goals is to have 100 percent membership.

For more than 20 years, the association has worked closely with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to test and improve water quality, according to Jenna O’Brien, Lake Washington Improvement Association board member.

O’Brien is the daughter of Dean and the late Arlys Gayner. They moved out to the lake in 1981.

This was actually one of the first properties purchased not on the north side of the lake, where there were cabins and a few year-round homes. The rest of the area was farm land.

O’Brien can still remember water skiing around the cows that were in the lake getting relief from the summer heat. Once in awhile, her family still finds barbed wire.

She has been a board member for four years. Other members include Rick Abein, Jean Ward, Dennis Westendorp, Bill Craig, John Fink, Jim Wendling, Rick Fernstrom, Cammy Moses, Dick Yoch, Jen Kjell, Steve Ullom, and Diane Winter, the president.

This year, totally through donations, an emergency warning siren has been installed on the lake.

If Dassel’s siren goes off, Lake Washington’s will, too, according to O’Brien.

Although important for those on the lake unaware of incoming bad weather, the siren will also be necessary for other emergencies – for example a train derailment with chemical spills.

“This is a very big accomplishment. It’s something the association has dreamed about for years,” O’Brien said.

The association is working hard to reduce the exotic species found in the lake including Eurasian milfoil and curly leaf pond weed.

It began treating the lake about five years ago for milfoil. Unfortunately, Eurasian milfoil can never be eradicated, it can only be made manageable, according to O’Brien.

Through a volunteer basis, the association was able to create a lake management plan; a working document that addresses long-range, ongoing concerns for Lake Washington.

Without this plan, it would be more difficult for the association to receive the required permits for treatment of the exotic species, according to O’Brien.

Another goal of the lake association is to educate homeowners on septic systems, lawn maintenance, and shoreline protection.

As part of a communication tool, the association has “shoreline captains.” There is approximately one captain per 25 neighbors.

The captain visits with homeowners, informs them how they can help with certain lake issues, answers questions, monitors the shoreline area and reports any weed growth or other concerns, and gives feedback to the board on concerns of property owners.

“[Shoreline captains] act as a liaison between the association and the residents. They are the go-to person,” O’Brien said.

The lake association even has its own web site (www.lakewashingtonassn.com) with information, maps, events, and links to the DNR web site.

“It’s loaded with information for those who live on the lake,” O’Brien said.

On a social level, the association gets together at least three times a year including the “Spring Fling,” a May barbecue, and a fall potluck. Dates and times for next year’s events are on the web site.

This year, the association has produced its second cookbook with recipes submitted by lake residents, friends, and family members.

Also in the cookbook is the Ice-Out history, dating back to 1954. Ice-Out is the date when 90 to 100 percent of the ice is off of Lake Washington.

There is also copy from the Sept. 13, 1951 issue of the Dassel Dispatch, in which the association was first organized and the officers were elected.

The cookbook is on sale for $15 at the Enterprise Dispatch, Peterson Pharmacy, the Dassel Historical Society, and Carol’s Beauty Shop in Dassel, or by calling O’Brien at (320) 275-4728 or Cammy Moses at (320) 275-0148. O’Brien and Moses can also be contacted for more information about the lake association or to become a member.