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Volunteer, lake association earn top honors

Shawn Olson, left, accepts the award of Volunteer of the Year from the Otter Tail COLA. Jeff Peltier and Dave Majkzrak accepted the Lake Association of the Year award on behalf of Pelican Lake Property Owners Association. Submitted Photo

Each year, the Otter Tail COLA honors a "Volunteer of the Year" and "Lake Association of the Year Award" for purposes of setting a standard for volunteerism in our county and region.

Nominations are received and reviewed by Darren Newville, director of East Otter Tail County Soil and Water Conservation District and Jerry Horgen, awards chairperson. Lori Dowling, NW DNR regional director, assisted with the presentation of the awards.

The "Volunteer of the Year Award" has to meet the following criteria:

• Has made a significant investment of their time and talent to protect and preserve their lake or river.

• Has demonstrated an ability to bring people together and engage them in activities that protect and preserve their lake or river.

• Has demonstrated an ability to bring about positive change.

The nominees were:

• Shawn Olson, Lake Seven, nominated by George May

• Bernie Steeves, Otter Tail Lakes Property Owners Association, nominated by Daniel T. Carlisle.

•Jeff Peltier, Pelican Lake, nominated by Aldie Kelsven.

• Roger Neitzke, Little McDonald, Kerbs, Paul Lakes Improvement District (LMKP LID) nominated by Shawn Olson.

• Ellen Palmer, Lake Marion, nominated by Barb Ness.

The award was given to Shawn Olson, Lake Seven. Shawn's accomplishments include

• Led the reorganization of the lake association.

• Created a nonprofit charitable organization for Lake Seven.

• Leader in having the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to conduct an assessment of Scalp Lake.

• Leader in bringing the Healthy Lakes and Rivers Partnership Program to Otter Tail County. This led to three lake associations receiving a $5,000 award to develop a lake management plan for their lake association.

• Leader in obtaining Star Lake certification for Lake Seven (Scalp) Lake Association in 2012.

• Vice-President of COLA from 2007-2009.

• President of COLA from 2009-1011.

• Leader in COLA obtaining a 503c charitable designation raising funds needed to print and distribute over 10,000 copies of a free guidebook on shore land stewardship.

• Leads the 2012 Otter Tail County's Area Invasive Species that include twenty county wide representatives.

Shawn calls herself a "lazy environmentalist," but she's anything but lazy. She's a leader and it is her desire to "inspire youth to learn about how they can protect and preserve our lakes for future generations..."

The "Lake Association of the Year Award" has the following criteria:

• Has successfully implemented a lake management project.

• Has successfully implemented an educational or outreach program.

• Has substantially increased membership and/ or has successfully increased participation of their membership.

• Has successfully partnered with the local/county, state and/or federal government or other agencies.

The "Lake Association of the Year Award" was given to the Pelican Lake Property Owners Association nominated by Shawn Olson.

Accomplishments of the Pelican Lake Property Owners Association include

• Pelican Lake is managed by a combination of Pelican Group of Lakes Improvement District (PGOLID) and Pelican Lake Property Owners Association (PLPOA). There are 1064 properties around the lake owned by 957 people. Of those people, currently 806, or 84 percent, are members of PLPOA.

• Pelican Brief published three to four times per year.

• E-communications to 76 percent of the members nearly 12 times per year.

• Six years ago, no e-mails were available, today the number is 800.

• Their website receives around 1,400 hits per month.

• They have a lake directory with contact information including beach maps, community contacts, and area businesses that support the directory.

• Bi-annual meetings of the association with six meetings with board members per year.

• Pelican Lake uses the Major/Captain system with each beaching at least one captain to update accurate data on ownership, contact information and other important data from the association.

• Karen Hart, president of PLPOA, and Doug Oksendahl, chairman of PGOLID, coordinate efforts with all volunteers.

• PGOLID has a detailed program for monitoring water quality, insect control, safety buoys and contingency plans for invasive species including the prevention of Flowering Rush from Detriot lakes, Sallie and Melissa via removal of plants from Bucks Mill to Little Pelican. They also partner with the DNR on these topics.

• PGOLID has conducted research on lakes that "have been infested" longer than Pelican and found much of what is in the news is not true regarding the loss of fisheries and weeds taking over. They are currently working with NDSU Polymers Department on possible future coatings for water equipment.

• PLPOA coordinates lake events such fish stocking, sailing school with weekly racing that includes 100 members, youth summer camps for sailing, a 4th of July parade, fireworks, and clean up days.

Congratulations to the Pelican Lakes Property Owners Association. Jeff Peltier and Dave Majkzrak accepted the award.

It has been said that "you give but little when you give of your possessions, it is when you give of yourself that you truly give." These nominees and award winners have given of themselves to make a better place for us all.