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Paynesville Press - July 4, 2001

Koronis Lake Association turns 30

By Michael Jacobson

For 30 years, the Koronis Lake Association (KLA) has been working "to promote the protection and improvement of Lake Koronis," as its motto states. The organization held its first meeting on July 1, 1971, and will celebrate its 30th anniversary this weekend.

"We decided that 30 years was a good milestone to celebrate our attempt at water quality improvement," said KLA's current president Peter Jacobson.

KLA will hold its annual meeting this Saturday, July 7, at the Lake Koronis Regional Park, on the south shore of Koronis on County Road 20. The annual meeting starts at 10 a.m., a lunch - costing $2.50 - will be served at noon, and the anniversary program starts at 1 p.m.

The program will feature presentations of 39 plaques to individuals and groups who have helped KLA in the last 30 years. (See the list in box on page 3.)

"Lake Koronis is fortunate to have people who are concerned about Lake Koronis because they have truly made a difference," said Paul Bugbee, a past president and long-time board member of KLA.

Currently, about half of the lake's estimated 500 people are dues-paying members of KLA.

KLA's formation
Virg Vagle grew up spending summers on a lake, where his parents ran a Bible camp, and moved to Paynesville as a teacher in 1965. Vagle knew other lakes had organizations to share concerns, work on issues of common interest, protect the lake, and preserve property values.

In 1971, Vagle approached his lake neighbor, Dwight Putzke, about forming an organization for Koronis. They enlisted other neighbors like Bill Henderson Jr., and more established lake residents like Harold Putzke, Dwight's dad; Mary Ann Erdmann; and resort owner Cush Tolman.

When they met at the high school in July of 1971, they had a good turnout, according to Vagle, and these people were elected to the first KLA board, along with Bob Munson, an attorney who lives on the lake and helped get the organization incorporated.

One of the first tasks of the organization was to build a membership base. Volunteers went door-to-door around the lake to contact lake homeowners, recruit members, and build a mailing list. "We spent an awful lot of time trying to get an accurate mailing list," said Henderson, who served as KLA's second president from 1973-1975.

Another immediate goal of the organization was to identify sources of pollution and minimize their impacts on the lake. Vagle said his motivations for the organization were to keep the lake clean, healthy, and beautiful.

Initially, a focus was on septic systems around the lake. When the organization formed, Stearns County didn't even license septic systems, a practice that didn't start until 1973. Through awareness of its effects, the organization tried to get members to reduce the nutrients put in Lake Koronis.

"It wasn't a matter of a bad septic system," explained Erdmann, whose grandfather bought Hortons Resort (now Stone Gate Lodge around the turn of the century and who has lived herself on Koronis for 80 years. "It was a matter of (no septic systems)."

The early days of the KLA were not without some controversy. For instance, the KLA supported the development of the Koronis Regional Park in 1973, though the concept had opposition. "We want parks on Koronis," explained Vagle. "We want access (to the lake) for people who live in Paynesville and the community."

Another controversial idea was to build a central septic system around the lake. This idea lost much of its impetus in 1978 when a diagnostic study of the lake by a St. Cloud State graduate student identified that nearly 80 percent of the nutrients into Koronis came from the Crow River, said Bugbee. Bugbee, who used to hitchhike home from college in Duluth to attend KLA board meetings, served as the KLA president for at least a dozen years starting in the late 1970s.

Another controversial idea was to reroute the Crow River to keep it from flowing into Koronis. Instead, a watershed district was formed in 1978 to work on improving the water coming down the Crow and eventually into Koronis. "That was the only way we could have any control on the water that came into the lake," said Erdmann.

"It was formed to address the nutrient loading because the preponderance came down from the watershed," added Bugbee.

Bugbee now has mixed feelings about some of the controversial dealings of the early KLA, which he felt helped generate interest in the lake and conservation efforts, but also fostered some adversarial relationships, rather than cooperative ones.

A large success of the organization, though, was in its being recognized as an environmentally conscious group, he said, like during the effort to close the local landfill in the early 1980s. "We had some credibility that lent to that cause," he said.

Or when the city improved its lagoon system in the 1980s by irrigating all the pond effluent and stopping regular dumping into the river. "It was a huge victory when they got those ponds developed to the point that only rarely would they have to release them into the river," said Bugbee. "That source of nutrient loading (into the lake) stopped."

KLA still uses its influence to support or oppose zoning issues that the board of directors feels will influence water quality on Koronis.

KLA today
Jacobson – who is also the publisher of the Press – has served as the KLA president throughout the 1990s. When he first took office, Jacobson recalls writing an article in the KLA newsletter entitled, "Will Koronis survive the 90s?" He feels it has…and has made progress.

In the past decade, the organization has funded a joint septic survey with the Rice Lake Association of homeowners on Koronis and Rice. This survey resulted in at least 30 failing systems being upgraded and increased awareness among property owners led to many other upgrades as well, said Jacobson.

KLA also hired an ag consultant who worked with farmers to improve agricultural operations and to find sources of funding for conservation projects. KLA, which earned money from charitable gambling for several years, also had money to cover the local share of projects that state and federal aid won't cover. Jacobson said most farmers who do water quality projects can get them done with very little out-of-pocket costs.

KLA has supported stormwater, feedlot, and septic system improvement projects, wetland restoration and water retention projects, and improvements to the city sewage ponds.

It also has worked for protecting the lake through awareness efforts, like its 18-year-old quarterly newsletter. Currently, 900 copies are printed and delivered to lakeshore owners and interested residents.

"Until people are aware that what they do impacts water quality, they might be polluting the waters they want to fish in or swim in or do other recreational activity in," said Jacobson.

KLA has also purchased lake ecology books that are used by fifth grade teacher Mary Stock at Paynesville Area Elementary School to teach students.

While no one can totally control the nutrients going into the lake alone, by working together and making others aware improvements can be made. "Just by living as humans we pollute," said Jacobson. "We need to minimize that impact on water."

KLA’s 30th Anniversary Awards
In honor of its 30th anniversary, the Koronis Lake Association will be recognizing 39 individuals and groups for their contributions to Lake Koronis over the past 30 years. The awards will be presented at an anniversary program at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 7, at the Lake Koronis Regional Park. KLA’s annual meeting will be held at 10 a.m., and a lunch will be served at noon.

KLA Awards to Individuals
Jeff Bertram, pushed legislation to close landfill
Paul Bugbee, former KLA president
Ivan Buschette, former watershed board chairman
Norm Dahlman, former DNR conservation officer
Mary Ann Erdmann, original KLA board member
Becky Felling, former watershed advisory board member
Mary Hahn, conservation activist
Dr. Mike Hansen, former KLA board member
Bill Henderson Jr., former KLA president
Eldon Hoeft, former watershed board member
Peter Jacobson, KLA president
Dale Lorenz, KLA board member
Richard Mathiowetz, former KLA board member
Harold Manz, conservation farmer
Bud McMillan, KLA board member
Bob Munson, original KLA board member
Paul Oman, former KLA president
Lloyd Peterson, former KLA board member
Dwight Putzke, 28-year KLA board member
Harold Putzke, original KLA board member
Everett Schmid, former KLA board member
Jim Schneider, former watershed board chairman and KLA board member
Dick Setterberg, former KLA board member
Bev Thornquist, former KLA board member
Darlene Thyen, KLA secretary
Virg Vagle, first KLA president
Bill Virant, membership update
Don Wiese, KLA board member
Mary Winther, conservation activist

KLA Awards to Groups
City of Paynesville
Crow River Trail Guards and Tom Koshiol, organizer
Department of Natural Resources and Chuck Nelson, local conservation officer
North Fork of the Crow River Watershed District
Paynesville School District and fifth grade teacher Mary Stock, for ecology education
Paynesville Sportsmen’s Club and Dave Ingalsbe, president
Paynesville Township
Rice Lake Association
Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District
Union Grove Township

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