By Greg Baker - December 2020
As I sit down to put pen to paper or, more accurately, fingers to keyboard, it has been a strange and melancholy year here at Lake Anna. We are all still in the midst of the pandemic with over 300,000 cases in Virginia and a little more than 4600 deaths. Most of us probably know someone diagnosed with the disease and worse, know of someone that has sadly passed away. But in some ways, and maybe it is a false sense of security, Lake Anna seems to have been relatively spared. I can’t easily find the specific statistics for just the lake, but the combination of Louisa and Spotsylvania County has had 4718 cases and 71 deaths as of this writing according to the Virginia Department of Health website. And of course, these numbers are skewed dramatically by the city of Fredericksburg in the Spotsylvania numbers, meaning the exposure here at Lake Anna is likely far, far lower. If you are so inclined to follow the data you can do so by clicking the map below. It also allows for you to drill down to our surrounding counties.
Because of shutdowns and the concerns around traveling or flying, families have been looking for options to do "staycations" closer to home and many new visitors have discovered all the wonderful options that are available here at Lake Anna. 2020 seems to have been the busiest year that I can remember in my 30 years of owning property at Lake Anna. Many or our members may not like our “secret” getting out, but we are blessed to have access to such a beautiful place to hunker down and get through the pandemic. I certainly do not mind sharing our oasis in central Virginia with our friends and families.
The pandemic has had its impact on our work at LACA. First, we stopped our in-person monthly board meetings in March. We did not miss a beat with access to Zoom and we adapted very quickly to virtual board meetings. (Although we all at times struggle with our lack of speedy internet access here in the country!) Not sure that I can speak for the board, but I actually prefer the virtual meetings. We will see if we ever go back to traditional in-person meetings or not. This allows for our non-resident volunteers to join our meetings year round and allows for all of our members to sit in on our meetings as well. Our board meetings are always open to the public and are held at 5:00PM on the first Thursday of each month. Please drop in if you are interested in the interworkings of our board. We try and post the Zoom credentials on our website a day or two before the meetings or you can always email me at email@example.com if you are interested in attending.
We also had to cancel our in-person annual meeting in July. We were determined to host the meeting and ultimately, we conducted our first ever Zoom annual meeting in late October. It went off beautifully and was well attended. Special thanks to Dr. Jennifer Graham who gave a very interesting presentation on Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs). It was a long meeting, but you can actually view the meeting recording on YouTube by clicking the photo below and fast forwarding to the parts that interest you. I would highly recommend watching Dr. Graham’s presentation.
The pandemic also curtailed our water quality efforts as well as those conducted by DEQ. LACA had to postpone or cancel some of our testing in the spring. As the summer progressed and the pandemic threat level subsided, our volunteers were able to adapt and get the work done on your behalf. While I am on the subject of water quality, I wanted to highlight just a few of the efforts of our water quality folks that were led by our co-chairs, Harry Looney and Mike Gelber. I am continually impressed by their dedication to keeping Lake Anna’s water clean and ultimately solve what has become our ongoing battle with HABs.
One of LACA’s most important accomplishments was to develop, with the help of DEQ, VDH, Soil & Water Conservation Districts, USGS, local universities and others, a HAB Recovery plan. A significant amount of work went into this plan. It is a living, breathing document that will help guide LACA in our efforts to fight and win this battle. LACA has participated in many, many meetings with all of our stakeholders. You can see a list of LACA’s accomplishments ,that we published for our annual meeting, which includes the work of our water quality committee but also the work done by the Land Use, Environmental Preservation and our Emergency Services & Safety Committees.
LACA expanded its traditional water quality monitoring program by adding weekly testing for algae and toxins on the lake. Next year the water quality team is working with academia and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to try to incorporate satellites to identify HAB “hot spots” on the lake to fine tune our testing and better deploy our resources of volunteer time and the costs of the lab work. This is fascinating stuff, using computers and satellites to help identify possible HAB outbreaks by analyzing pixels on maps that represent 10-meter square sections of the lake. This is truly amazing! NOAA established a website to show the actual images that will be used. You can click on the following map to see the images yourself.
Harry Looney will be writing a year-in-review on the water quality program in our next newsletter, so I will keep you in suspense for all that has happened in 2020 and what to expect further in 2021. We can always use volunteers to help collect water samples and also to help in data analysis and other projects related to water quality. If you are interested in volunteering for these efforts, please reach out to Harry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am also very proud of our membership’s support of our call for donations to co-invest with the Lake Anna Advisory Committee on phase one of a robust watershed study to understand the causes and potential remediation of HABs. We agreed to fund $10,000 towards this study and raised nearly that amount from your generous donations. The first phase of the study will focus on the North Anna branch of the lake and phase two will focus on the Pamunkey Creek and Terry’s Run section of the lake. The study is well under way and I will report back to our membership as I hear of their findings. If you missed the opportunity to donate to this very worthy effort, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our water quality programs.
Speaking of finances, LACA operates on a shoestring budget and much of what we are able to accomplish is funded by grants or your generous donations. Clearly, we are not able to execute our goals based on our very low $15 annual dues. Therefore, there are a couple of announcements that I would like to make.
First, in order to continue to represent our growing community and to execute our mission, we need your help. We hope to grow our membership in the new year. We will be announcing a March to 1000 Membership Drive with some great prizes for those of you that help refer members to LACA. While the membership drive has not started officially, any members you refer that add your name in the referral field on the membership application form, will count towards upcoming contests. Please be on the lookout for our announcement early next year. In the interim, please consider telling your friends and neighbors about all that we do and encourage them to be part of our journey! New members can easily join on our website by clicking here.
Secondly, we are discovering opportunities to apply for grants that could help LACA execute our vision. We felt the need to have a "go to" person to spearhead our grant writing effort. Since none of your board is qualified to do so, we are going to try and learn on the job. We have asked Jack Molenkamp, who kindly volunteered to help LACA, to act as our grant writer. While Jack admits that he does not have any experience in grant writing, we are undeterred and very happy to have Jack help us in this effort. If you are experienced in this field and are willing to help or provide advice, please consider contacting us! It will be very much appreciated.
Speaking of grants, LACA is proud to announce that we received an $8,000 grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. Thanks to Mike Gelber for leading this effort. The grant is for a program that LACA and Mike will develop in the spring to deploy floating wetlands at Lake Anna. Floating wetlands are small islands that float on the surface and are planted with native species. The plants’ roots grow through the island and dangle up to 2 feet below the surface. These islands are very effective in competing for nutrients, which could help starve HABs. We hope to work with the Louisa County High School students in the late spring to install several of these islands in the lake. Mike will be writing an article with more details in a future newsletter. If you are interested in helping with this project, please reach out directly to Mike at email@example.com.
LACA and your board recently reworked two of our six regions. This was done to more equally divide our membership among our regional directors and to also help to better represent the private side of Lake Anna with our board. The two new regional boundaries are now logically divided to represent members on the public side versus the private side of the lake.One of our long-time regional directors recently stepped down from our board and we currently have an opening for a regional director to represent this newly drawn region on the private side of the lake. This is an opportunity to have a very important impact and we would love to hear from interested volunteers. If you currently are an active member of LACA, live or own a home on the private side and would be interested in being a member of LACA’s board, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to share with you what to expect as a regional director and what are the regional director responsibilities. Please consider volunteering!
As you can see, even in a pandemic, there is much going on with LACA and I have just scratched the surface of our activities in this column. There is much to do and it has been a privilege serving our community and working with the dedicated volunteers that make up LACA. I wish all of our members a very safe and Happy Christmas and a wonderful and hopefully a very different New Year in 2021!
(By the way, a big THANK YOU to J.D. Edwards our newsletter editor. JD gives fully of himself, not only to help us out at LACA, but he is a big volunteer at the Louisa County Resource Council. The world is a much better place with folks like JD!)