Forming a lake group
Inspired by a sense of ownership and personal commitment, individuals may wish to preserve or improve the beauty, health and recreational values of their lakes. Usually a specific concern inspires people to organize. However, those groups whose members are guided by a broader, long-term vision seem to endure. Community based lake protection groups provide many benefits, helping residents to:
- Gain strength in numbers.
- Develop a communications network.
- Cultivate partnerships with lake and watershed neighbors.
- Gather information about their lake.
- Raise awareness of lake issues.
- Develop goals and a long-range lake management plan.
- Raise money for lake improvements and protection activities.
Kinds of lake groups
Lake associations are volunteer organizations, often non-profit corporations funded by membership dues.
Advantages: Lake associations are flexible and work well for carrying out low-cost activities.
Disadvantages: Volunteer organizations have difficulty supporting expensive, long-term projects. The work often falls on the shoulders of a few dedicated volunteers.
Homeowner associations can be created when a subdivision is built, and require each landowner to join the association and abide by its covenants. Lot assessments provide funds for the organization.
Advantages: Homeowner associations are permanent organizations with dedicated sources of funding.
Disadvantages: Once adopted, covenants are not easily modified. Actions depend on an active association board.
Lake management districts are special voluntary public entities created through a vote of property owners and ratified by a county council. They are funded by property assessments within the district boundary.
Advantages: Lake management districts have clearly outlined decision making processes and flexible rate structures that sunset automatically. They also provide opportunities for partnerships with local government.
Disadvantages: They are complicated and time-consuming, requiring 12 to 18 months to form. They also have a limited term of up to 10 years; to renew a lake management district after sunsetting, the entire process must be repeated.
Forming lake management districts
Lakeside dwellers who want to make a serious, long-term commitment to caring for their lake may find that lake management districts (LMDs) provide the strongest organizational structure. Such districts allow community defined assessments to raise revenue for lake protection or improvement activities, with property owners on or near a lake paying a special charge on their property, either annually or on a one-time basis. They may be initiated either by a petition from owners of at least 15 percent of the acreage within the proposed district or by a resolution of the Metropolitan King County Council. After a favorable vote by the property owners in the proposed district, the Council passes an ordinance, creating the LMD. The County administers the money from property assessments, but a community advisory board (composed of area residents) may be formed to oversee project expenditures.
Seeking outside help
King County Water and Land Resources Division's (WLRD) Lake Stewardship Program is designed to support the efforts of lake groups within the WLRD service area. Their Lakes staff will gladly share organizational and technical expertise, train volunteers in lake monitoring and management, provide speakers and informational materials and sponsor grants to secure available public funds for lake improvement projects.
Easing the way
Lake groups can create strong neighborhood ties and make a real difference in the quality of lakes. But whenever people attempt to accomplish something together, differences of opinion and expectation emerge. Running a successful community group takes patience, tolerance and careful groundwork. To begin:
- Get a history of the lake from long-term residents. Their historical perspective will be helpful in making any long-term decisions.
- Find out whether any studies or lake management projects have been previously undertaken. What were the results? Do other lake users, stakeholders or special interest groups (such as sport fishing, boating or other recreational groups) already exist in your area? Find out how their goals and objectives match yours.
- Learn what government agencies are involved in monitoring and/or managing your lake and watershed. Begin by studying the state's Growth Management Act, King County's Comprehensive Plan and local community and basin plans affecting your lake's watershed.
- Investigate any emerging developmental or political situations or issues that may affect the lake and its watershed.
King County Water and Land Resources Division Lake Stewardship Program
Organizing Lake Users: A Practical Guide
Terrene Institute, 4 Herbert Street
Alexandria, VA 22305
Washington State Lake Protection Association
P.O. Box 4245
Seattle, WA 98104-0245
North American Lake Management Society
P.O. Box 5443
Madison, WI 53705-5443