A Celebration of the Lake

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Outside, the wind was whipping wicked little gunmetal gray whitecaps up against the shoreline

But from inside the plate glass windows of the golf course clubhouse overlooking the water, the attitude was anything but stormy.

I imagine that the couple hundred-plus folks who turned out Tuesday night will look back many years from now and proudly tell anyone who will listen that they were there at the very beginning - the night Storm Lake set out to Save the Lake.

Given impaired hindsight, some that didn't show up will remember being there too, but that's okay. There's room enough for all to come on board.

The Lake Preservation Association crew has always had a feel for the local waters. What they have gained of late has been a flair for the dramatic as well. The so-called "annual meeting" was a production worthy of its stage.

You see, the LPA people don't miss a trick. It was no accident that they happened to place this meeting in the one public meeting room that looks out over the glacier-carved lake - one of the most powerful and moving view in Iowa.

If the speakers were eloquent and inspiring, the lake itself speaks even louder. And now, it seems, everyone is listening.

This night was no meeting; it was a celebration, a beginning, a community gathering cry.

The title of the campaign says it all pretty simply - "Save the Lake." Our job is nothing less.

What a night it was - blue and white balloons everywhere simulating waves, the room sprinkled with model sailing ships, lighthouses, kayaks - even the famed 19-pound fish once landed by legendary Storm Lake character "Catfish Charlie."

I suppose we could Save the Lake for the politicians, or the LPA, or the city and the county, or even for old Catfish Charlie.

But in the very center of the room, I had my eye on a tiny little boy, barely tall enough to see over the table. He had a "Save the Lake" sticker stuck to the back of his tee-shirt.

I think that's who we're saving the lake for. Right? That little dude and hundreds like him, and thousands and thousands more yet to come.

It is our responsibility - no scratch that - it's out delightful opportunity, to see that they inherit a natural resource where they can one day fish, or boat, or water ski. Where they mark the seasons with the arrival of flocks of beautiful waterfowl. Or where they can just sit on the shore with the sand between their toes and watch a sunset that will stir their souls - the best in Iowa, bar none, baby.

It was a night, alright - the good souls who came out plunked down about $15,000 that one evening, raising local pledges to almost $30,000 in just a matter of weeks. It's rolling in just like the waves.

There's a long way to go. It might not even be done in any of our lifetimes.

But the attitude was unmistakable - that the time to start is now.

A year ago, a sustained local dredging and watershed improvement program was a crazy pipe dream.

Looking around Tuesday night, I couldn't find a face that today does not believe it is possible. Even the DNR grand poohbah is on board and talking Storm Lake up all over the state as the model for others to follow when they want to get something done.

Heck, it would have been lovely is the state or the feds had written a $50 million check to get the lake dredged and the water cleared while we sat back in our lawn chairs and watched.

But honestly, it's better this way. We're gonna have to work for it, give something to it. We're gonna have to make it personal, come together and take responsibility on our own.

But when it happens, oh when it happens, we're gonna appreciate it a world more.

You there, kid, hang onto that sticker. Storm Lake's Save the Lake effort is going to be famous some day.

Take your own grandkids down to the lake one day and tell them you were there at the beginning.

If it seemed like a party going on, why not let it be a birthday party, the start of a new era for our stormy, beautiful waters.

It's going to sweet.