John Holderman, Nick Stanger and the late Howard S. “Howdy” Wilcox were honored Saturday with the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation’s Cattail Awards, each for their contribution to the health of the watershed.
The award is presented yearly at the annual WACF meeting. The meeting additionally provides an update on the “state of the watershed,” a brief presentation from six committees and introduction of new officers and board members.
The biggest news is expected to be announced late in the week when the latest acquisition may be finalized.
Sam Leman, new WACF board president, presented the 2011 Cattail Awards.
Holdeman, outgoing president, has served on the board since 2003, the last 2 1/2 years as president. He also served as chairman of the finance and planning committee. Holderman lead the WACF’s efforts to control the number of boats, halting a marina and the amount of dredging at Oakwood to protect the wetland and water quality of Conklin Bay.
Holderman learned of a proposed massive pier installation, including 250 slips and a marina operation as part of Oakwood’s redevelopment plan. In June 2011 a group pier application for eight piers with a 200-foot length was filed with the DNR. The permit, which was granted, was for shorter peers with slip extensions to be installed at the discretion of the permit holder with no limit on the number of watercraft. A second permit was also applied for to allow the dredging of the channels and the lake in front of the inn.
“John’s extensive effort negotiating with the Oakwood receiver, working with our counsel, WACF personnel did not go unrewarded,” stated Leman. “This past spring the dredging permit was limited to the channel area only and WACF reached an agreement on the pier use, limiting it to 120 watercraft total, operated by patrons of the hotel or Oakwood Park property owners. No marina.”
Stanger was recognized for his efforts with the forerunners of the Knapp Lake Area Conservancy and its efforts to install sewers. Stanger, who has served on the WACF board since 2008, came to the board in 2006 requesting seed money for the sewer program. That initial $25,000 seed money for engineering study and early legal fees has been turned into $5 million in grants. The project has been approved with construction to begin in 2014 and residents connecting to the system in 2015.
Knapp Lake, at the headwaters of the watershed, is responsible for 43 percent of the water flowing into Wawasee. The lake has been listed on the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s impaired water bodies with the health department doing continual water testing for high E. coli levels. It was noted the water quality of the lake is poor due to the numerous old saturated septic systems including a few outhouses.
The award was given posthumously to Wilcox, who died Sept. 30, 2002. Wilcox was one of the founding board members of WACF. Known throughout the state he was founder of the Little 500 at Indiana University and originated the Indy 500 Festival. Leman stated “He was a board member from 1992-1998 and is credited with acquiring our very first land acquisition, the property owned by Maymie Long on SR 13. That was the beginning of our wetland acquisition and conservation efforts.” The award will be given to his wife, Joyce, who was not able to attend.
New officers and board members were announced – Dr. Joan Szynal, vice president; Catherine Hoffman; Sherry Swank; and Bart Culver as new board members.
State Of The Watershed
Updates on grant projects, canoe trips, ecology, development, land management and land acquisition were all presented by respective chairpersons, several incorporating their educator backgrounds.
Holdeman, for Tom Yoder chairman of the land acquisition, provided information on last year’s acquisitions. He noted WACF was successful in purchasing property adjacent to Turkey Creek and to trade two barns and high ground on that property for an 8.5-acre conservation easement along Turkey Creek. He also noted WACF was successful in purchasing 4.5 acres of a 100 acre farm east of the middle school to build a sediment farm to get cleaner water flowing through Leeland Gardens.
He added there is 761 acres of property, including 35 wetlands, owned by the conservancy. He also added at this point WACF owns 50 percent of what a study 10 years ago suggested the WACF needed to preserve and protect the wetlands.
Heather Harwood, executive director, presented the project updates. Earlier Holdeman noted in 21 years the foundation has received $1.35 million in grants and donations.
Harwood noted a grant was received through the Elkhart River Restoration Association to work with farmers in the watershed to keep the soil on the fields and out of the waterways and the lake along with continued work at Dillon Creek, the number one hot spot. “This substantial grant of $400,000 is allowing us to get up there and work with all kinds of people in the watershed and getting that sediment held,” stated Harwood.
Upcoming projects she noted include the 4.5 acres behind the middle school and what can be done to hold some of the muddy plum coming into the lake, a project at Hindman Lake and working on the lake access development ordinance update c the funneling ordinance c to tighten up the regulations. She noted the current regulations allow for double dipping.
Dan Berkey reported this was the end of the 16th year for the canoe trips that were cut short due to the drought. Berkey who noted the trips were educational used a funnel as an analogy of the watershed to Lake Wawasee. He stated the outer edge of the funnel represented the 23,000 acres in the watershed, with the small tip being lake Wawasee. Everything going into the funnel flows to the small opening. The same with the watershed.
He stated 43 percent of the water in Wawasee comes from Turkey Creek, 15 percent from Dillon Creek, 16 percent from Tri-County, the rest from other sources.
Diana Castell, ecology committee, also presented an educational lesson after reporting on the Lakes Talks and Eats programs in June, July and August. She had those in attendance try to remove all soil from a cut-out letter “P” in a plastic bag, noting just like phosphorous cannot be completely removed from the sediment. She also had individuals try to remove one drop of water from a container with an eye dropper, noting one drop of water stays in the lake for three years.
She noted the clarity of the lake this year was the best it has ever been due to the lack of rain carrying runoff and sediment into the lake and the lack of boat traffic stirring up the lake. She suggested with some of the shoreline showing to add native plants or install glacier stone.
Beth Stein, development coordinator, reported she was there to help WACF raise $4.5 million to help with the future of the foundation, to have funds available to provide speakers, for matching grants, to execute purchases. Personally she stated she would like to see $7-$10 million raised. She noted the goal is to have $200,000 for education, $750,00 for the watershed, $1.5 for land acquisition and an endowment of $2 million.
Bob Fanning, land management, noted he was responsible for more than 700 acres of property and he is starting a chain saw brigade to remove debris redirecting natural flow of waterways.
The meeting closed with Fanning announcing WACF had purchased the rights to a song written by Mike Struwin titled “Living Earth.” This song will be utilized to promote WACF in marketing and at meetings.
It will be used on the Web. Copies of the words and a CD containing the song were given to those present.