SYRACUSE — Close to 200 came to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation Saturday morning, July 29. The event also honored two individuals for their dedication to the foundation as recipients of the annual Cattail Awards.
Jerry Riffle and Rob DeBeck were this year’s recipients. Riffle served on the board from 2002-2010 and continues to be a key member and asset to the ecology committee. “He helps with the invasive weeds and can identify any bug, any fungus and tree,” said Joan Szynal, WACF chair. DeBeck has served as a member of the ecology committee for five years and was instrumental in organizing the Farmers Breakfast. “He is a guy who is always here and always helping us, no matter what we’re doing,” Szynal said.
Dave Brandes, former board chair, gave a brief history of the foundation, including how it was started in 1991 after Dr. Dave Irmscher took a photo of the brown water coming into the lake from an Enchanted Hills channel into Lake Wawasee. That photo was shown to the Wawasee Property Owners Association, who put together a separate organization. The first land donation, was noted along with the hiring of a company to create a watershed diagnostic study in 1996 and 10 years later a watershed management study. Both are still used today to direct land acquisitions and projects.
Brandes also noted several other major land acquisitions and those responsible for those purchases. “We have had so many difficult problems,” Brandes said. He briefly talked about the sediment problem, phosphorus, weeds, algae blooms and the fight to stop a hog farmer from opening a confined feeding operation. “WACF will always be on guard to protect and defend this watershed. We want the waters to be clean. This is our home.”
Szynal recapped projects and programs over the years: erosion control, sediment and livestock issues, removal of invasive plants, healthy shoreline projects, receiving $1.5 million in matching grant funds for projects. Other accomplishments noted were land acquisitions and installation of eco buoys. Programs noted were canoe trips, Lake Talks and Eats, annual Bug catch, Wetland Adventure, Earth Day, Mother/Son adventure and trail walks.
Recognition was given to two original board members, Al Campbell and Harriett Innskeep. Outgoing board members, Nick Stanger, Diana Castell and Tom Yoder, were also recognized. Jay Jorgenson, Russell Anderson and Beth Morris were announced as incoming board members.
Heather Harwood, executive director, presented brief updates on recently completed projects and future projects.
Terry Clapacs, Vice President, reported the foundation has raised $3.3 million of the $5 million goal in the Capital Campaign. He stated donations were received from 530 friends in the last year, supporting the operating budget. He noted the capital campaign funds received thus far have been used to establish an endowment to ensure the future of the organization.
Clapacs said $2 million from the capital campaign will be set aside for land acquisition. He said with funds raised so far, the foundation has been able to spend $425,000 to purchase the balance of the property at the educational center, purchase the Searfoss property for $505,000 and complete the Syracuse wetland acquisitions with the purchase of the Deider property for $225,000. He also noted the Eli Lilly Lifetime Founders organization.
Prior to the annual meeting a brunch was available to guests.