The Osakis Lakes Association put out a plea on social media recently, looking for members to join its board.
“We are facing some major challenges moving forward,” its post said, citing the loss of retiring board members and the need for tens of thousands of dollars to fight invasive species.
Their plea underscores the difficulties lake associations can face in tackling issues of invasives and pollutants. Lake associations say that lakeshore owners don’t always realize or want the responsibilities that come with living on the lake. Sometimes the lakeshore owners live in other cities or states and when they visit their weekend cabins, they want to relax.
“That’s pretty common with members, with associations like this, people don’t always want to invest their time,” said Bruce Magnus, one of the Osakis Lake Association’s directors. “They’re here for pleasure and not for another commitment.”
In Douglas County, not all lakes have a lake association. Those that do depend on the interest and dedication of volunteers, and some are more active than others. If lakeshore owners care about treating invasive species like Eurasian milfoil or curlyleaf pondweed, which is the dominant invasive in Lake Osakis, they generally need an association to secure permits, find funding, and hire companies to spray chemicals in problem areas.
Some associations conduct regular tests on their lake water to gauge the level of pollutants like phosphorus. If they are lucky enough to get grants, they often still have to dig into their own pockets to pay for expensive testing and treatment, splitting the cost among those lake shore owners who want to contribute.
A 2017 survey by Concordia College in Moorhead on behalf of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates found that lake associations and other lakeshore owners donate millions of dollars and volunteer hours each year. A prior survey posted on the Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations found that in some cases, landowners and lake associations put more money toward managing aquatic invasive species than did their local units of government.
Kevin Farnum, vice president of the Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations, said that some who purchase lake homes or cabins know about the problems facing Minnesota lakes and want a strong association that can deal with the problems. Others likely don’t think about it.
“I think there are a bunch buying their first lake place that don’t even have a clue,” Farnum said.
There are more than 850 parcels on Lake Osakis, and several people have responded to the Osakis Lake Association’s request for volunteers.
Magnus said they should be at full strength by the time the association holds its first meeting this winter.
Meanwhile, he said, there has also been some consideration of forming a Lake Improvement District, a more formal, structured group that would work with county commissioners on tackling issues like aquatic invasive species, floating bogs and sludge that has washed up on Miller Bay. The association could then handle the fun things, like festivals and walleye raffles.
“A lake association really shouldn’t be considered a government body but that’s what it turns into,” Magnus said.
So why does Magnus volunteer his time?
“I recently retired. And I need to be busy,” he said. “I need to be involved and it’s a contribution I can make to the community.”