FAIRMONT - Martin County has 149 lakes - some small, some large, most relatively shallow, and ecologically, all important.
Maintaining all those lakes is an impossible task for one group, but what if some people invested in just one lake took the time to look into its needs, create a plan and carry it out?
That is the focus of a grant awarded to Martin Soil and Water Conservation District to create or assist lake associations.
The district's Cathy Thiesse said that beginning this fall, training will be held to study lake management plans, offer assistance in communications and outreach, and form connections between lake enthusiasts, water resource professionals, and city and county government.
The grant allows for five $2,000 pots of money to be distributed to help groups of five to eight citizens create lake associations.
"Citizens are an integral part of keeping lakes healthy," said Alex Gehrig, program coordinator with the non-profit Freshwater Society, which is involved in the district's efforts.
Gehrig said it is up to individual lake associations to decide what they want to tackle. In other places, groups have focused on invasive species, updating septics, and working on agricultural runoff issues.
He said this method of forming associations - offering training, funds and help creating a written plan - fosters groups that are vital and active.
"The beautiful part of that process is that everyone has a say," he said.
Thiesse said it doesn't have to be exclusively lakeshore property owners who form the associations.
"You don't have to live on the lakes," she said. "You just have to care about them."
Gehrig said it typically takes six months to a year to create a plan and begin to put it into action.
The grant money will be distributed in smaller amounts - between $400 and $600 - as the program progresses to ensure that the associations have money at each step in the process.
Questions can be directed to the Martin Soil and Water Conservation District office at (507) 235-6680. Training for the associations will begin in September.