In July 2017, our Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA) steering team met for our regular monthly gathering. On the way to the meeting, I had stopped at the post office to check our COLA post office box, but didn't take time to loo...

In July 2017, our Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA) steering team met for our regular monthly gathering. On the way to the meeting, I had stopped at the post office to check our COLA post office box, but didn't take time to look at anything. I just packed it into my meeting bag.

One of the topics at the meeting was our supply of the pamphlet "Hubbard County Shoreline Guide to Lake Stewardship," which covers ways to protect the water quality of our pristine lakes we all love. (We have an electronic version online in the "What You Can Do" section of our website: .)

We discussed how funding for the pamphlet was raised for the initial printing. A quick peek at the inside cover proved fruitful. Besides COLA, the organizations included Hubbard County Soil & Water Conservation District, University of Minnesota Extension, plus various lake associations and others listed as funding partners.

Someone mentioned, "Remember that Rosa Stolzenberg, who volunteered for South Island Lake Association, donated toward the printing costs in memory of her husband, Gary Stolzenberg? He was involved in our COLA "Restore The Shore" program and planted trees to protect the lakes, too."

As the discussion moved on, I toyed with the mail pile during the meeting. What was in that big envelope addressed to me? I quietly opened the envelope, still listening...It had been determined that each lake association would check their inventory of pamphlets. These booklets are used by families planning their rain garden together to prevent stormwater runoff, by new lakeshore owners as they learn about septic system maintenance, and at local kiosks, for example.


I could hardly believe what I saw and blurted out to the group, "What synchronicity! This document asks that the president of COLA get in contact with this insurance company about a donation from the estate of Rosa Stolzenberg. Wonder if it is really true?"

As it turned out, Santa indeed had come early to COLA! The Spirit of Christmas was demonstrated not only through the lives of Gary and Rosa Stolzenberg as they shared their talents and passion for the natural world in trees and mushrooms as volunteers, but also as part of their legacy through this donation. Added to our endowment fund, the contribution will continue giving to this and future generations in our Heartland Lakes area through our COLA Charitable Fund.

At Thanksgiving, COLA kicked off our first request for proposals for grant applications from 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and community groups for up to $1,500 with the deadline March 1, 2019. Grant application guidelines may be found on the Northwest Minnesota Foundation ( under "Latest News").

We have many other partners in protecting our lakes that we recognize as having the Spirit of Christmas, too! They include the ice-fishing folks that keep an eye on the aquatic vegetation visible under the ice, as some invasives can thrive in the cold water; the summer visitors to the lakes that ensure their boat and equipment are clean; the State of Minnesota and our Hubbard County AIS prevention program, the DNR, MPCA, plus all the volunteer water-quality monitors, lake associations, organizations, businesses, and fishing guides.

This past year, we were able to make connections through ACTION Park Rapids Lakes Area, which helped us collaborate with new partners, such as the library and community education. To see the list of our COLA 2018 AIS Program achievements through our partnerships with Hubbard County Environmental Services and others, please see our 10-25-18 Committee Report ( This six-page document includes four pages with our 2019 plans, too. Our COLA AIS Program focuses on six primary areas: Public awareness, prevention, early detection, rapid response and containment, plus mitigation and management.

In 2019, let's follow Rosa and Gary Stolzenberg's example through their legacy in the true Spirit of Christmas! We can each do our part to protect our lakes and rivers as we go about our daily lives in this special water-rich area. We all love our lakes and our individual actions prove it to Santa!

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