How to Form a Lake Association
People who live on lakes have some advantages not available to other citizens.
They also have some unique responsibilities which may be difficult for them to
deal with as individuals. Sharing and meeting with others with common interests
can both stimulate problem solving and provide solutions that may not be
A lake association may help you and your neighbors in many ways to:
- Develop a partnership with your lake neighbors.
- Gain awareness of your neighbors' lake interests.
- Develop a communications network for sharing lake news.
- Raise awareness of lake issues in the community.
- Launch fund raising events and apply for grants.
- Develop a wise, long range lake management plan.
- Gain strength in numbers. The group's opinions and needs can be constructively
represented in dealing with government officials and agencies.
- Gather information and present educational programs for your membership and
other lake users living within the community.
- Conduct data collection on a broad range of lake concerns (water quality, real
estate developments, lake use conflicts).
- Gain a historical perspective from longtime residents.
Typical Projects for Lake Associations
- Establish contracts for aquatic plant removal.
- Form groups for monitoring water quality.
- Buy and operate an aquatic plant harvester (with the required permits).
- Develop long range lake management plans.
- Develop plans for funding weed control and water quality projects.
- Negotiate with government entities for grants to fund weed control and water
- Conduct educational programs relating to both the effect of and possible sources
of plant nutrient loading of the lake waters.
- Conduct boating and swimming safety training programs.
What To Expect
- Expect divergence from your own philosophy and expectations about how a lake
should be used or managed. If an organization is formed over one issue or point
of view, the prospects for long-term success may be limited.
- Costs and funding matters are nearly always controversial issues. Approach them
with caution, particularly in the early stages of forming an association.
An Organization With the Best Chance of Success
- Has an eye toward the future.
- Recognizes a broad range of issues and requirements.
- Anticipates unforeseen occurrences that could change the lake.
- Balances the needs of today's lake community against the possibilities of
- Is sensitive to differences in the views of those who have lived on the lake for
- Is aware of the distinctive requirements of year-round and seasonal residents.
- Is sensitive to the various user groups and their expectations (boaters, fishing
clubs, seasonal users, etc.).
Where To Start?
- Talk to longtime residents to develop a complete history of the lake.
- Find out whether there are existing groups that represent lake interests.
- Have there ever been other lake organizations? If so, what happened to them? Who
were the officers?
- Have there been major management projects such as aquatic plant harvesting? Who
- Are there any government agencies or institutions involved in management
projects on the lake?
- Are there any groups with a substantial interest in the management of the lake
(lodges, marinas, industries, city or county governments, large landowners,
boaters, fishing clubs)?
- Are there any political situations or issues (development, use conflicts, plant
Before Your First Informational Meeting
- Assemble a nucleus of interested people whom you believe may wish to be involved
in helping to solve the problems of the lake. This group might include a
representative of your city or county lake management group, a longtime
resident, a special interest person and someone who lives near, but not on the
- Be prepared to present a list of all the reasons you believe a lake organization
- Be prepared to consider possible objections to an organization and how they
might be addressed.
- Develop a preliminary plan of neighborhood divisions or areas in order to
recruit representatives so that all groups are represented.
- Distribute any information that may be available concerning issues or problems
and their potential solutions.
- Form a committee to plan the first informational meeting. This committee should
include in their planning such items as meeting location (school auditoriums,
public library meeting rooms, church meeting rooms or auditoriums). In the
planning also include such items as agenda, invitations to professionals in the
field of lake concerns to speak, as well as the selection of a time and a date
for the meeting.
- Using the city or county tax rolls to make a list, invite everyone residing on
the lake to your informational meeting. Preferably, this should be done by mail
or hand delivery, but in any event a "telephone tree" should be set up to remind
people a few days before the meeting of the date, time, and location.
- Prepare a news release for your local newspaper and your radio and television
public affairs program to invite other interested members of the community to
attend. Send it out early and be sure to follow it up with a telephone call to
help insure its use.
At The First Informational Meeting
- Before the meeting, inspect the logistics (chairs, audio visual equipment,
paper, pencils, sign-in sheets, etc.). Be sure to ask for addresses and
telephone numbers at the sign-in.
- When the meeting has been called to order, introduce yourself, your committee
and any guest speakers, as appropriate.
- Explain why you feel there is a need for an organization.
- Start on time and stay on schedule.
- Allow plenty of time for questions and answers and to get feedback.
The need to form an association will usually be to seek a solution to an
existing problem or problems, but to help make the need a cogent one, you might
also discuss the history of the lake in terms of boating, swimming, fishing and potability of the water. A discussion of the effect of changes in the lake's
watershed might also be pertinent.
After the information has been provided and all of the questions have been
answered, you will need to confirm the desire of the group to form an
association. A straw vote may suffice for this.
If the result is positive, you may wish to elect temporary officers and to get
agreement on a date for the first organizational meeting. This meeting should
follow the first informational meeting as soon as possible. The temporary
officers should, in the interval, prepare suggestions for bylaws and nominations
for permanent officers.
If the people attending the preliminary meeting are not sold on the idea of a
permanent association, you may wish to form a steering committee to explore the
idea further or to set up another preliminary meeting. This second informational
meeting could invite a speaker from a successfully operating lake association to
address the specific concerns of those who were negative to the idea of forming
Lake associations are usually organized as "not for profit" corporations. The
procedure for doing this requires that application be made to the Washington
State Secretary of State for a certification of incorporation. Information for
completing this application can be obtained by contacting the Secretary of
State's office at 505 E. Union Street (PO Box 40234), Olympia, WA 98504-0234.
Their telephone number is (360) 753-7115.
Once the certificate of incorporation is received, it may be necessary also to
apply to the U.S. Department of Internal Revenue for tax exempt status under
section "501(c)3." Groups such as lake associations are usually considered as
scientific or educational; but since they raise funds through dues or other
means, the exemption may be required depending on the amount of money raised.
The IRS telephone number is 1-800-829-1040.
It is important that careful records be kept of all disbursements, receipts and
other financial transactions. If you have association members who are attorneys
or accountants, they may be willing to help in setting up your association's
accounting records and filing for tax exempt status.
Lake Management and Sewer Districts
It may be necessary, in order to fund large projects, to assess or tax lake
property owners. Limited authority to do this may be granted by city or county
governments upon petition by a majority of the lake's property owners.
Liability insurance for the directors and officers are two additional items that
your organization may wish to consider. Perhaps one of your members who is in
the insurance business can provide information about the need for this type of
insurance. Alternately, you can contact The Community Association Institute at
1423 Powhatan St., Alexandria, VA 22314; (703) 548-8600, for additional
Sources for More Information
Join the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) (906) 462-2554 and the
Washington State Lake Protection Association (WALPA) P.O. Box 1206, Seattle, WA
Organizing Lake Users: A Practical Guide published by Terrene Institute, 1000
Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 802, Washington, DC 20036.
A Citizen's Guide to Understanding and Monitoring Lakes and Streams. Now out
of print but available on the web - Just click on the title.
Lake and Reservoir Restoration Guidance Manual. 2nd Edition EPA 440/490006.
Write to Clean Lakes Program, Assessment and Watershed Protection Agency, 401 M
Street SW, Washington, DC 20460.
A Citizen's Manual for Developing Integrated Aquatic Vegetation Management
Plans. Contact Ecology publications at (360) 407-7472 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also available on the web - just click on the title.
Acknowledgment: University of Wisconsin, College of Natural Resources for
permission to use portions of their publication Starting a Lake Association.
Copyright © Washington State Department of Ecology. See http://www.ecy.wa.gov/copyright.htm