In 1970, Bob Erickson set out to form an association of Bay
Lake property owners. His efforts
were prompted by increasing problems with red and brown algae clumps (the
primary threat to Minnesota lakes at that time) and a strong belief that a
coordinated effort involving all property owners was essential for the long term
preservation of Bay Lake. Three key
steps were taken:
First, an effort was made to
communicate with and learn from existing shoreline associations. For example, he attended the annual meeting and Christmas party of the
Woodland Beach Association where he explained his vision and sought their
support………which was immediately given.
Second, a listing of Bay Lake
property owners was compiled. Working
with two other computer industry retirees (Howard Shekels, a Bay Lake resident
and Pete Zimmer, a resident of Rush Lake who was in the process of establishing
a similar association), a courthouse employee was hired to pull names and
addresses from county records in her spare time. Then computer time was leased and data was entered to create
a computerized mailing list. Although
databases are commonplace today, this was an ingenious idea and time consuming
endeavor in 1970. It’s unlikely
that an association could have been developed without such a tool.
Third, the mailing list was used
to invite property owners to attend a meeting in the old Bay Lake schoolhouse. The building was packed with interested and supportive residents. The vision was once again presented, it was decided to form the Bay Lake
Improvement Association (BLIA) and volunteers were enlisted.
Bob Erickson served as president of the first board of
directors, but many others played vital roles. Ed Holbert, Kirk Kirkiede, Ed Glass, Bob Haben, Jack Ruttger,
Dick Johnson and Jim Halverson served as the initial board members/committee
chairmen and Gordon Johnson helped set up the association. Additionally, the lake was divided up geographically and
residents in each sector volunteered to be “Beach Captains”. These
early Beach Captains were vitally important. They signed up members and communicated issues in both directions between
the board and the membership. Also
board and committee meetings were scheduled, an annual membership meeting was
held and an association newsletter, “The Breezes” became the cornerstone of
association communications. Member
support was excellent and the enthusiasm and commitment of the volunteers got
the new association up and running.
A few of the
notable BLIA activities undertaken over the years have been:
-The development and management of a walleye rearing pond,
-reviewing county records to determine which properties had
upgraded septic systems,
-coordination with the Minnesota Lakes Association on
issues key to lake property owners,
-monitoring and, if appropriate, taking positions in regard
to lakeshore development,
-enhancing the environment by providing members with pine
-pushing the township to asphalt roads servicing lakeshore
-monitoring property tax issues.
In addition to the “operational” activities listed
above, BLIA has provided residents with the opportunity to meet their neighbors. Annual summer and winter parties and a special summer kids party all
contribute to the feeling of “community” at Bay Lake. Additionally the Runtilla and Fourth Of July Fireworks are highly valued
annual events and numerous pontoon flotilla’s have been held.
While some of the challenges (such as safety and
communications) have been consistent throughout the years, others have evolved. For example, water quality efforts, which initially focused on septic
system upgrading, now involve identifying specific sources of pollution and
taking proactive steps to correct them. Other
challenges such as exotic species, which weren’t even on the radar screen when
BLIA was formed, developed in the 90’s requiring yet more community focus,
creativity and support. Without the
BLIA infrastructure, Eurasian Water Milfoil would have begun severely hindering
lake activities many years ago.
A key step in the growth of the association was the
development of the “Environmental Fund”. Many of BLIA’s most vital activities are funded through the donations
to this fund.
For over four decades BLIA has maintained a coordinated approach to
enhancing Bay Lake and, as a result, it has been cited as a model lake
association. It has linked members
together to deal with the short and long term issues affecting the lake on
behalf of property owners, their descendants and the large number of people who
visit Bay Lake. This stakeholder
group knows Bay Lake is precious and their continued support of BLIA is clear
evidence that they believe strongly in the original vision.