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Big Sand Lake supports community

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I attended the Tuesday, Nov. 19 open house meeting at the Northwoods Bank regarding the DNR proposal for the Big Sand Lake Access. My letter to the editor references several of Ms. Smith’s reported comments in the Nov. 23 Enterprise.

Let’s talk about the elitists who live on Big Sand Lake. Residents of Big Sand Lake are current and past Park Rapid’s school employees, home builders, community professionals, restaurant and retail owners, and so on. The Park Rapids community benefits greatly from their daily contributions of work, economy and volunteer services.

Approximately 150 residents and lake friends belong to the Big Sand Lake Association. The Big Sand Lake Association Mission Statement reads “Committed to the Preservation of Big Sand Lake.” Protecting Big Sand’s natural Eco-system and habitat for all current and future users is paramount to the goals of the lake association.

Let’s look at what this group has accomplished in recent years.

BSLA supports a website largely open to the public. A web cam provides 24/7 access to the public for viewing the lake.

BSLA developed a comprehensive Lake Management Plan March of 2005. Focus Area 8 addresses public water access. Focus Area 2 addresses Fisheries. Please view the complete plan on the Big Sand website www.bigsandlake.org.

BSLA supported with financial and volunteer assistance the DNR Fisheries program for monitoring dissolved oxygen levels and cisco count. This monitoring continues yearly.

BSLA supported with financial and volunteer assistance DNR mapping of submergent and emergent vegetation. Big Sand volunteers spent many hours collecting data and working with DNR personnel in the local Fisheries Department.

BSLA supported with financial and volunteer assistance U of M Extension classes to all area residents identifying shoreline management best practices. Subjects of erosion, buffer zones, rain gardens, and plant identification were studied.

BSLA supported with financial and volunteer assistance education related to native and invasive plants and native and invasive species and then, instituted a citizen task force to monitor for the above. Non-association members were invited to attend and participate.

Monitoring of water quality, dissolved oxygen levels, and cisco count is part of a set of data used to determine the health of the fishing habitat. Vegetative mapping of the lake provides data for the fisheries habitat. Educating users regarding native and invasive species, buffer zones, and shoreline management all contribute to enhancing the fishing habitat of the lake.

So, anglers, let’s give credit for what is being done through significant financial and volunteer support to enhance your fishing environment. The association also cares about the fish. We’ve provided education on lead free and barbless hooks.

Anglers are only one group of users who enjoy the public waterways. They are a strong group and well organized with lobby efforts at the state level. To date they have failed to offer support to any recent AIS funding bills, bills that would provide much needed money to our local governments for natural resource protection vital to the area economy and way of life. Let’s challenge the group to come forth with proactive AIS solution.

Mr. Dan Kittilson, COLA President, expressed compelling concerns (June 7, 2011 during the Hubbard County planning commission meeting) regarding the possible AIS consequences of increased boat traffic on his own lake, Little Sand. And, Mr. Kittilson, could you please provide reasons why Hubbard County COLA made the decision to withdraw from MN COLA?

Much thought and focus should be directed to the DNR and MN State Legislature regarding current AIS policies. How do we protect our clean lakes? Should we require boats coming from infested waters to have decontamination proof prior to being able to enter a clean lake? Why do we burden clean lakes with detailed inspection of entering boats?

A concept drawing utilizing the current public access land and parking lot was presented to the DNR. The illustration addressed all improvement needs expressed by the DNR. Construction costs were estimated between $125,000 to $200,000. Purchasing the Boggs property and developing a new access could run anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million dollars. $125,000 to $200,000 vs $500,000 to $1 million.

March of 2010, the MN Office of the Legislative Auditor (http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/ped/2010/nrland.htm) expressed concerns whether the DNR will have adequate future funding resources to manage and maintain current land holdings. Minnesota is the third largest land holder behind the U.S. government and Alaska.

A vital component of protecting our lakes is “working together as a team.” Comments such as “Big Sand residents ... were being elitist” “Tuesday evening, rumblings of a class war began at Northwoods Bank, where the open house was held” create conflict amongst people who desire the same preservation outcome.

A strong disagreement should not be confused with disrespect. Both sides responded with assertive and boisterous comments at the Nov. 19 meeting. Care should be taken to avoid competition and ego impeding our best decision making. The only way for all of us to preserve the beautiful resources the State of Minnesota offers is to work together toward the greater good of preservation for now and the future!

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