By Deb Patterson
SYRACUSE — Donn and Linda Baird, Steve and Bridget Johnson, and Rick Lemberg were the recipients of the 2021 Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation’s Cattail Awards.
The award, which recognizes the important work and dedication to WACF, was presented Saturday, July 31, at WACF’s annual lake celebration meeting, held in the Ruddell Pavilion. Approximately 50 attended this annual event.
Baird served on the board for nine years as board treasurer before rotating off the board, but remained treasurer before returning in 2018 and now serving his fourth, three-year term. Baird will continue serving as treasurer. Mrs. Baird was recognized for allowing her husband to serve on the board.
The Johnsons, who have donated the breakfast for the annual meeting since 2018, were honored for their support of the conservancy through their donation. They were also recognized as being great neighbors of the foundation’s Between The Lakes property.
Lemberg’s recognition and honor stems from his providing “valuable maintenance work” for the organization, helping with the high school canoe trip and his artwork. The metal sculpture of a sand crane and the fences around the memory gardens were noted as some of his work.
The annual meeting is also time for the changing of board members. Catherine Hoffman was recognized as a retiring board member. Bill Herdrich was welcomed back to the board replacing Hoffman.
Additionally this year was the announcement of the changing of the guard. Chris Roberts will be stepping down as chairman at the end of August and turning the reigns over to John Bearss.
Other highlights of the meeting included a presentation by Bill McCully who recognized the support received in completing important projects and the support financially and time in preserving the water. Tom Yoder also provided brief details about the latest acquisition of the Turkey Creek Inlet Preserve on the east end of Lake Wawasee, across from Runaway Bay.
Yoder noted this emerging wetlands is WACF’s most important acquisition. The preserve filers approximately 43% of the water flowing into Lake Wawasee. “This cried out to be preserved,” said Yoder.
The event also included a presentation by Dr. Jerry Sweeten, president of Ecosystems Connections Institute, who is spearheading the Wawasee Inlets Nutrient Study. “A lot of eyes were opened with WINS,” said Roberts.
Beth Morris, chairwoman of WACF’s eco committee, stated “We know where we want to go, but don’t know where we’re starting from. So it’s hard to chart a course unless you have a starting point. That’s what this WINS study is about.”
Morris noted no other organization is doing such an in-depth scientific work in quantifying the amount of sediment and nutrients coming into the lake from inlets and leaving the lake through the water control device in Syracuse. The study monitors the health of the lake allowing WACF to set priorities within the watershed of where work is needed. It will also assist in developing grants and partnerships.
Morris concluded Sweetens presentation by noting the data will help WACF quantify the work they have done during the last 20 years. She noted the most recent completed project, the restoration in the Turkey Creek Tributary in the Turkey Creek sub-watershed saved 306.6 pounds of phosphorous coming in every year and 613.2 tons of sediment per year. Approval of a similar project upstream in Dillon Creek is expected to help save 183.7 pounds of phosphorous and 63.7 tons of sediment per year.
It was noted WACF is actively seeking grants through various government agencies and they have applied for status with the national water quality initiative which would open the door for more federal funds to work with ag producers.