The Boat Moves Ahead When Everyone Paddles in the Same Direction
The path forward can sometimes be hard to see when there are a lot of unanswered questions.
When the Tomahawk Lake Association (TLA) Board of Directors met in January, there were a host of unanswered questions that needed to be resolved before we could have a clear view of our short term future. As we left that meeting, we were unsure we’d be able to address the work plan we had established for the upcoming summer season because the funding paths were uncertain. But over the past 90 days many questions have been answered, and the way forward has become clearer.
TLA’s efforts have always required that three partners come together to financially support the association’s plans to protect and enhance Tomahawk Lake. As we looked forward at the end of September 2010, two of the three were in serious doubt.
Partner 1: Local Government
We fully anticipated that our support from our four Town Government partners would substantially drop, as every town budget was under extreme pressure. With the on-going economic recession, town revenues have taken a beating and serious discussions about spending priorities were taking place in every town hall across the northwoods. The TLA made presentations to each board of supervisors, laying out plans and explaining the need. One by one, as budgets were agreed to, our four towns “stood up” and allocated 2011 funds for TLA. What’s more, their allocations either met or exceeded the prior year’s funding. Believe me when I say that a huge sigh of relief was heard emanating from TLA’s palatial board room (which doubles as Margo’s kitchen).
Partner 2: State Government
Then came the elections of 2010 and Wisconsin’s state government had a huge convulsion. As seats changed from one party to the other uncertainty increased for the TLA. We had to wonder ‘What would the anticipated austerity program mean for the DNR?’ and ‘Will the state continue funding the fight against Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in our lakes and streams?’
In early January, I put the final touches on a grant application that would support TLA’s programs to control AIS, educate our watershed’s stakeholders and put into place the next steps of our five year Comprehensive Lake Management Plan (CLMP). I submitted the application with the sinking feeling that our chances of receiving state funding were very thin.
As the CLMP implementation timeline has progressed, our entry into new areas of effort has driven our expenses higher. In the end, even with trimming our plan to the bare bones, our grant request exceeded that of the last two-year cycle. With the state way over budget and the governor and legislature talking about slashing the cost of state government, what could our chances possibly be?
The announcement date for AIS Control Grants was April 1st, and TLA, along with many other deserving lake associations waited nervously for the outcome. When it came, the answer was positive for TLA – our grant request was rated the highest among all submissions and we received all of the requested funding for the next two year period.
Our two year grant program represents $309,000 worth of projects ranging from control of Eurasian Water Milfoil (EWM), to boat ramp education through Clean Boats Clean Waters, to new initiatives for the control of Purple Loosestrife and monitoring our lake for its chemical health. The state will support us by contributing $174,000. This includes a $25,000 increase in funding by the WDNR and shows that the partnership we have – and the regard in which we are held – is very strong.
So there you have it. Two of the three groups have now “stood up” despite overwhelming pressure to reduce expenditures.
But what of the third group – the group that has the most to gain from keeping Tomahawk Lake beautiful?
Partner 3: Lake Property Owners and Enthusiasts
Late last fall, the TLA introduced the Fair Share Membership drive to all of the watershed’s shoreline owners. Over the past several years, a small group of lake property owners (4% of the total) have funded the majority of TLA activities. The Fair Share program aims to engage all lake enthusiasts in keeping our lake healthy.
After anticipated grant money and town revenue donations, we have a shortfall of approximately $75,500 to meet our expenses. To make up that shortfall, we are asking all lake property owners contribute a minimum of $270. To arrive at that number, we have taken our shortfall and divided it by 80% of lake property owners (280).
In January, letters were sent out and to date many property owners have sent in their Fair Share and some have included an additional donation above and beyond $270. We have also received “Friend of the Lake” donations from children and grandchildren (of all ages) of lake property owners.
If you haven’t taken part in our Fair Share Membership drive, please make it a priority. Your contribution is evidence of your personal commitment to ensure that Tomahawk Lake continues to be the “Jewel of the North” for generations to come.
Our two other partners have both “stood up” in a big way – now it’s our turn.
Thank you for being a part of our cause,