|Making Lake Life Even Better: The Big Toad Lake Area Foundation
Nothing says Minnesota quite like life at the lakes does. So it makes sense that West Central Initiative, dedicated to meeting the needs of residents in west central Minnesota, is collaborating in efforts to make lake life in that region even better.
The WCI support is timely, because more people are opting to live year-round at their lake homes. It's a trend that signals a change in lifestyles as well as new opportunities for organizations such as WCI to take an active role in regional development.
Fund Helps Boost Lake Health
In the case of one lake, that involvement isn't particularly alluring, on the face of it. It involves weeds -- curly leaf pondweed, to be precise.
A plant that is not native to the United States, curly leaf pondweed grows primarily underwater at depths of up to 15 feet. While it provides some cover for fish and food for some waterfowl, the plant frequently causes problems due to its excessive growth. To keep the lake healthy, its infestation needs to be controlled with herbicides or harvesting.
That is precisely the situation that residents on Big Toad Lake in Becker County needed to act on. In 2003, residents faced a serious curly leaf pondweed problem. Nearly all of the lake's 80 property owners contributed to an effort to do a herbicide treatment of the lake, says Fred Tuominen, who has owned property on the lake since 1976 and who has lived there permanently for five years. “We raised approximately $25,000 to do a herbicide treatment of the lake,” he says.
But, because the residents weren't formally organized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, their contributions were not tax-deductible. That changed the following year, Tuominen says. “We heard about WCI and got talking to them. At one of our meetings, we got interested in the possibility of setting up a foundation fund and making future contributions tax-deductible to our members.” The Big Toad Lake Foundation was started in 2004, and the weed problem continued to require attention for the next several years. It's set up as an in and out fund, Tuominen says. “Contributions went in and whatever was needed to do the treatment went out. That's how it got started.”
While Big Toad Lake residents were able to suspend the weed control program in 2007 after a successful evaluation by the state's Department of Natural Resources, they are involved in ongoing discussions about what their Foundation's next project should be, says Tuominen. “We need to become more active and find other worthwhile projects.”
Planning Lake Sustainability
A second WCI-supported lake effort keeps its on eye on the effects that more year-round residents may have on a body of water – in this case, Big Cormorant Lake in Becker County. Residents such as Jim Colbert, who has lived at the lake for ten years, are raising funds to establish programs. One example is to create a public boat fueling stop. “When you have a lot of people using the lake, it's good to have that service,” he says. “It helps with spillage and with pollution.”
Colbert notes that since Big Cormorant is within a 45-minute drive from Fargo, more people are building year-round homes there. But challenges arrive with any surge in building. “The lakes can only take so much building and runoff and fertilizer and different things that come up,” he says.
That is precisely why trying to anticipate the lake's future needs is important, he says. “We have to try to be aware and watch those things, to protect our lakes.”
Providing a Foundation for Generations
A sense of the future also mirrors efforts by another effort that WCI stands behind. The Cotton Lake Area Foundation has raised about $10,000 as part of an effort to create an endowed fund, says Dave Lee, who owns a home on Cotton Lake, also in Becker County.
He says that the word is being spread to lake and area residents who could be interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to an endowment. “We're just getting it in place to have it there,” he says.
“It's a long-range plan for the future, so the lake will be there and the issues about the lake are there for our children and grandchildren.” The endowment will help sustain the family spirit that defines Cotton Lake, he says. “It's the right thing to do for generations to come.”