SecchiMeasuring lake water clarity with a Secchi disk. Minnesota Pollution Control AgencyIf you have been a member of a lake association, you likely know that they can be extremely productive, energetic, action-driven organizations. In our shared waters, we are fortunate to have over 30 lake associations. While these associations may originate due to concerns for taxes, infrastructure or governance, the vast majority form out of a passion to help to protect local water resources.

Often, they are the on-the-ground water quality samplers, the folks who organize shoreline cleanups, the ones who bring resources and messages from resource agencies who may be unable to have a strong presence in more remote parts of a watershed. Every year, I have the honour of organizing a binational Lake Association Network event where I have met the people who are the heart and soul of these groups from Ontario, Minnesota and Manitoba. They are passionate about what they do and they fill a vital role in ecosystem health and protection. In this article, I’d like to showcase some of the good work that lake associations are doing all around us, most of the time as volunteers.

Over the years locally, some of the smaller associations like Laclu Campers, Whiteshell Cottagers, Ingolf Campers, Malachi Campers, Black Sturgeon Lakes and Minaki Conservancy have pooled their resources to monitor water levels, initiate septic re-inspections, actively participate in forestry planning and host educational workshops on what landowners can do to minimize their impact on the environment. And then there is the large, well-known Lake of the Woods District Stewardship Association, active for over 50 years. Invasive species monitoring, the tree seedling program, the LakeSmart dock-to-dock stewardship program and their popular metal waste collection day are all spearheaded by this association in an effort to protect water resources and spread information on stewardship to their members, who are in both Canada and the U.S.

In Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, associations abound. A few examples of our neighbours’ success stories include the boat inspection and decontamination efforts of the Vermilion Lake Association’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program – with 17 public and more than 20 private accesses onto this lake, the association works with resort owners, their local Soil and Water Conservation District and the public to educate on prevention and provide inspection and decontamination expertise. Monitoring and preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species has become a major focus for many of Minnesota’s lake associations. Monitoring for water quality through citizen science programs and research partnerships plays a significant role in bolstering the efforts of resource agencies. The White Iron Chain of Lakes Association near Ely, Minn., for example, provided the manpower to do water quality monitoring over a ten-year period that supported a substantial research project. Gunflint Lake, Turtle Lake, Jessie Lake, Kabetogama, Burntside and many more all have active, involved volunteers who sample water, run events, plant buffers, clean up shorelines, focus on invasive species prevention and much more.

We owe plenty of thanks to all of these lake associations and their members for the effort they put in year after year to recruit volunteers, seek funding to run programs, sit on committees to help make a difference, provide information to the public that may be hard to come by otherwise and generally just do good work.