Commentary: Our beautiful legacy lakes are under assault

The following commentary for the Opinion page was submitted to the newspaper by a reader. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

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By Jim Conn, Lake Ida resident and Ida Lake Association District Director #14, Alexandria, MN

In a striking disregard for the beauty and quality of lakes in Douglas County, the Board of Commissioners recently approved a plat presented by Pazdernik LLC (of Paz Excavating) for 31 condominium storage buildings in close proximity to the south side of Lake Ida. Prior to that vote there was dialogue, discussion and correspondence between the ILA (Ida Lake Association) with Douglas County's Land and Resource director asserting that the planned development was not supported by existing laws in Douglas County. The County Board chose to disregard our contention and approved the plat.

It is helpful to take a 30,000-foot view of this issue; that view shows that all of our beautiful legacy lakes are under assault through poorly planned, uncaring, helter-skelter commercial development throughout Douglas County. Specifically, Lake Ida is so attractive from a recreational standpoint, people want to be very close to it. If they cannot afford to purchase a home on the lake, the next best option is to purchase a “toy shed” so that lake toys are close at hand to go onto the lake after work, weekends, etc.

Unfortunately, the “toy shed” reality is now out of control inundating all of us — including county authorities and lawmakers. We are well on our way to enjoying tiers of “toy sheds” being installed around Lake Ida, all over Ida Township and, through logical progression, Douglas County itself! Is that our vision for Douglas County? Tiers of toy sheds densifying, populating and surrounding the greatest and most valuable assets known to all of us, our natural lakes? Without our lakes, Douglas County would just be another ho-hum county instead of the sparkling gem that too many of us take for granted.

We can either continue to trash our lakes, rivers and streams in Douglas County or we can take action to preserve and protect our lakes for future generations. The Ida Lake Association as a strong organization is committed to a leadership role in protecting Lake Ida and participating with other Douglas County lake associations in the preservation of our lakes for future generations. Well over 100 years ago, our farmer ancestors in Douglas County were granted strong legal rights to trash our lakes through a drainage system known as “county ditches.” These ditches are still in existence today and codified in Minnesota state law. How long will it take our local legislators to insist on equal protection for our lakes and streams — another 100 years?

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