Lakes group honors Grob for leadership

Ken Grob, president of the Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA), was honored Friday in Hubbard by North Central Minnesota Lakes for his "outstanding efforts" to improve lakes.

Ken Grob, president of the Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA), was honored Friday in Hubbard by North Central Minnesota Lakes for his "outstanding efforts" to improve lakes.

Grob is a member of the shoreland alternative standards advisory committee and has been active in encouraging lake associations to develop strategic lake management plans.

"You can lead at some level, but you are only successful when you are willing to work," Grob said upon acceptance of his award.

Michelle Prosser, director of the Hubbard County Soil and Water District (SWCD), said when Grob joined COLA a few years ago, he "added a blend of strategic planning, skill at communicating scientific principles to laypersons and the people skills that enable him to work with equal comfort and success with technicians, volunteers and elected officials."

The North Central Minnesota Lakes stakeholder meeting was held to educate about the progress of the project, part of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Clean Water Initiative. Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard and Itasca counties are pilots for the project, aimed at establishing alternative, more stringent shoreland management standards.


"It's a real challenge for commissioners," said Hubbard County commissioner Dick Devine. "We don't want to see what we have deteriorate. We need to find a balance."

Grob and others also spoke about COLA's accomplishments and the Healthy Lakes and Rivers Partnership Program, which educates and encourages citizens to develop lake management plans.

Alternative standards

Russ Schultz, chairman of the North Central Minnesota Lakes project, and Garry Johanson, developer for Naterra Land, gave an overview of what the project has accomplished and where it is going.

"We have come a long ways," said Schultz. "We have exceeded our expectations. We've got the ball rolling."

In 2004, the project began with public hearings to identify concerns and priorities. An advisory committee made up of commissioners, developers, zoning officers, resort owners and others drafted a set of alternative shoreline standards, which were finalized in December 2005. Counties may choose all, some or none of the standards to adopt.

"In the beginning, stakeholders wanted to provide better management tools," Schultz said.

Currently, the project is in the process of educating the public. Some pilot counties have adopted standards, and even counties not in the project are showing interest.


Johanson, the former Hubbard County Environmental Services officer, said issues like conservation easements have "been a big reason why I have been involved since the beginning. Somebody needs to initiate it."

Conservation subdivision are similar to a cluster design, but pay greater attention to open space and buildable area, optimizing use of natural amenities on site. They also have nature-friendly stormwater systems.

Johanson and Schultz also spoke about non-riparian access to lakes, which means lots on the second tier and up will not be allowed lake access, and how allowed impervious surface area was reduced to 12 percent in the alternative standards.

"This is going to be the norm, so you better learn it," Johanson told the audience. "We all need to start walking the talk."

Healthy Lakes and Rivers

"Everything that happens in the water starts somewhere else," Jim Steenerson of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation told the audience Friday.

This is the reasoning behind the Healthy Lakes and Rivers Partnership, which guides citizens through the steps to develop lake management plans that protect natural resources.

Steenerson explained how lake management plans identify concerns residents believe are pertinent and identify funds and personnel needed to address these concerns.


"They are taught to set realistic goals, ones they can actually achieve," he said.

The Northwest Minnesota Foundation, along with the McKnight Foundation and the Central Region Sustainable Partnership, fund the initiative.

Grob also spoke about COLA's lake management plan efforts.

"Seven Hubbard County lakes have been developing lake management plans," he said. "It brings lake property owners together with common values, visions and goals."

The Healthy Lakes and Rivers Program, sponsored by COLA and the SWCD, has been a priority for COLA, Grob said.

Lake association members interested in the lake management plans undergo two days of training and one visioning session.

Five Hubbard County lake associations completed plans in 2004, including Big Sand, Fish Hook, Little Sand, Lower Crow Wings and Upper Twin. Six completed plans in 2005: 8th/9th Crow Wings, Bad Axe, Big Mantrap, Portage, Potato and Long lakes.

Their focuses included association membership, fisheries management, wildlife, exotic species, public water access and aquatic vegetation, with the three main priorities being water quality, land use/zoning and aquatic invasive species.


"Many association plans are evolving to the point they can pursue grants," said Grob, who also detailed how his lake association, Potato,has progressed.

"Some look at lake associations as being antagonistic, but they are more of a partnership," Grob said.

Little Sand Lake Association president Dan Kittilson explained how his members are very active, with a concern for the environment and pride in accomplishments.

"We are trying to be proactive," he said. "The challenge is, lakes are worth protecting. That's where we're coming from."

Little Sand's focus areas, said Kittilson, are land use and zoning, planned unit developments and the North Central Minnesota Lakes Project. They plan to use lakeshore education and communication, government liaison strategies and Department of Natural Resources partnership to bridge their focus areas together.

"We have a lot of active lake stewards who are willing to show up, speak up, get involved," Kittilson said.

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