All the seats were taken around the long table at the Wakefield Opera House despite the day being a beautiful Saturday morning in June. The occasion was a first regional ‘Lake Associations Mixer’ sponsored by MMRG and the Acton Wakefield Watersheds Alliance (AWWA), on a theme of ‘Connections Between Land Use and Water Quality — Connections Between Lake Associations’. The program featured a round table session for Lake Associations to get to know each other and share information as well as several expert presentations about water quality issues and ways to safeguard our lakes, including the importance of land conservation.

Jay Aube, an Environmentalist for the Water Pollution Division of the NH Department of Environmental Services, Services’ provided useful guidance on methods to landscape shorefront property in order to preserve lake water quality.  He also shared information about the current NH permits that are intended to regulate lake-front development, in order to protect the lake water quality.

Professor Jim Haney from the UNH Center for Freshwater Biology has a way of making scientific research understandable to all.  He shared findings from his decades of researching NH’s lake water quality.  Dr. Haney explained how nutrients, particularly phosphorous, are bound in loose soils that run off into lakes and can promote blooms of cyanobacteria.  The blooms give off toxins that are unhealthy to humans, pets, fish and wildlife, and can lead to lake closure for recreation.

Pat Tarpey, Executive Director of the Lake Winnipesaukee Association introduced the Winnipesaukee Environmental and Community Action Network (WE-CAN) and pointed out the power of collaborative environmental work and the challenges of bringing together the numerous small lake associations.

The presentations were wrapped up by MMRG Executive Director Patti Connaughton-Burns, who described a regional conservation planning process that is being launched by MMRG in order to develop a strategic vision for land conservation in our region.  In late summer 2016, MMRG will begin reaching out in order to gather input from a wide range of constituent groups, including the many Lake Associations represented at this mixer event.

During the round table session, Lake Associations shared successes and challenges that can be used to develop focus topics for future meetings. One of the most urgent questions was how to engage, energize and and retain new volunteers, young people especially. Participants were unanimous in agreeing that that they learned a lot and want to meet again. The gathering was free and open to the public, so be sure to watch for and attend the second annual Lake Associations Mixer next year!

AWWA, a non-profit 501(c)3 charitable organization established in 2005, is dedicated to protecting and restoring the water quality of the lakes, ponds, rivers and streams of Wakefield, New Hampshire and the border region of Acton, Maine. AWWA staff members and volunteers work within the communities to strengthen the understanding that what happens on land determines the health of the local waters.  Healthy waterbodies provide essential benefits to our communities as a natural resource, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunity and economic engine. For more information visit www.AWwatersheds.org