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Kittilson named president of Hubbard County COLA

Dan Kittilson

Little Sand Lake resident Dan Kittilson is now at the helm of the Coalition of Lake Associations, elected to a two-year presidential term, succeeding Ken Grob.

Hubbard County COLA, forming in 1988, emerged as a voice for the lakes, Pat Alberg, also a Little Sand resident, its first leader.

Initially, residents from 10 lakes formed the stewardship coalition to address surfacing environmental issues.

The number of individual associations has grown to 30, encompassing 40 lakes. The initiative is now 2,000-member strong.

The main focus is education as means to protect the lakes' environment, Kittilson explained. The organization has evolved to become a positive, influential organization, he said.

"Citizens are key," he said, noting his goal is to "build COLA capacity" by activating individuals.

COLA has developed strategies to protect natural shoreline and native aquatic vegetation, important to fish and wildlife, he said. "Human disturbance of shoreline opens the door for aquatic invasive species (AIS)."

Members encourage shoreland restoration by creating buffer zones at the shore, "getting away from the golf course look," he said of grass extending to the lake's edge.

COLA has taken a proactive approach in educating the public on preventing the spread of AIS, forming a task force to educate, and in some instances, inspect.

COLA is beginning to work with townships. Lake Emma Township was home to a watercraft inspection program this summer, thanks to a DNR grant, COLA assistance and financial support from the township, Zorbaz and lake associations.

The Healthy Lakes and Rivers Partnership will continue, he said. The program was developed to help fill the gap between what state agencies are able to accomplish with regard to water quality management and what local citizens believe should be done to protect or improve the quality of their lakes and rivers.

Eleven Hubbard County lake associations have developed lakes management plans with six more committed to developing management plans, while creating visions, missions, goals and indicators to establish success.

Plans call for COLA to work more with local units of government and to boost awareness of updated shoreland standards.

The grassroots approach is cost effective and has historically proven to be successful, he said.

Kittilson advocates more members stepping up to take active, leadership roles. "People are the key to making a difference. Lakes need to be protected. I hope to build that capacity."

COLA will meet Thursday, Sept. 24 in the courthouse meeting room with Marian Bender, executive director of Minnesota Waters, invited to share information on the future direction of the organization. Social time is at 6:30 p.m. with the meeting convening at 7 p.m.

The second Legislative Healthy Lakes Forum, spearheaded by Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2 at Northern Lights Casino in Walker.

A panel is expected to address AIS; a session on septic systems is on the agenda and land conservation easements and shoreland rules revision information will be shared.