The Wawasee Area Conservancy headquarters property has been renamed. The property along SR 13 is now the “Levinson-LaBrosse Lakes and Wetlands Education Center.”
The announcement was made Saturday at the annual WACF breakfast meeting by Bob Fanning, outgoing board member.
A sizeable donation has come in from the family of Alan (Buzz) Levinson and Hank LaBrosse: Frank Levinson, Frank Levinson Jr., grandson and Rose Levinson and Alana Levinson-LaBrosse, granddaughters.
The Levinson family has a long history at Lake Wawasee and the donors wanted to honor their patriarchs with their gift. Both Levinson and LaBrosse spent a lot of time at Lake Wawasee over the years. “So the interest they have in education at Lake Wawasee is important.” Due to a family event, the Levinsons could not attend. Additionally, Fanning noted Buzz Levinson had passed away last week, but the project was well underway before his death.
The family has also been huge supporters of Kosciusko Lakes and Streams, a community-based research center at Grace College, Winona Lake, proof of their education commitment.
“They are giving us an opportunity that we can’t turn down,” Fanning announced.
The headquarters property includes the education center building, the Ruddell Pavilion, educational wetlands, wooded wetlands trails and future facilities.
Fanning noted the WACF has morphed from its beginning as interested in land as land trusts to remediation and water quality projects to make a difference. Educating the public was started a few years ago. “We all need to be helped by meetings like this, Lake Talks and Eats, canoe trips and projects we’ve done,” said Fanning.
But WACF had “a chicken or an egg problem. You want to educate people but how do you do that without a place to educate people.”
He stated the Ruddell family’s contribution provided WACF with a pavilion and remodeling of the education center. “So we can get this program off the ground. As you look around you see people, cars and space. The opportunities we have here, it’s virtually endless.”
The Levinson-LaBrosse family donation is the largest single contribution WACF has received from a family or a living individual.
The announcement came on the tail end of a presentation by Terry Clapacs, chairman of the development committee, and the announcement that the 5-year campaign goal of $4.5 million is broken down into four categories — education, special projects, land acquisition and establishing an endowment.
Dave Brandes and Tom Yoder assisted in the presentation, touching on projected financial goals in each of the areas. The campaign is looking to budget $200,000 for education; $750,000 for special projects, $1.5 million in land acquisition and the remaining in endowments.
Brandes noted a lot of the projects are funded through matching grants and to continue doing projects, which better the lake, it will take money. “The lake is in the best shape it has been for a long, long time.”
During the presentation Yoder noted since 1993 WACF has come half way in achieving acquisition of property deemed crucial to protect the wetlands. To date, 777 acres are under WACF ownership with an estimated 723 acres still to go, based on the original engineering study.
Clapacs noted endowments will keep the WACF going, noting operating expenses are approximately $200,000 with annual giving slightly equal. The endowment will allow WACF to free up funds and can be supported through estate planning.