Opinion: Elk Lake needs plan to protect environment, safety of children

The following is a two- to five-year plan to clean up Elk Lake.
Clean up the .25-acre beach on Elk Lake by putting in a rain garden, located at 143rd and 285th on Little Elk Lake. The problem is 3.3 acres of gravel road runoff is going into the lake, which is road gravel, sediments and phosphorus. This is polluting Little Elk Lake.
Problems with step one, the beach, is it is 100 feet long, 109 feet at the road and 56 feet at the shoreline. It is estimated that 3.3 acres of runoff is going through the beach, this equals 296,208 cubic feet of water flowing through this quarter acre, that is 2.2 million gallons of water a year. The problem is it’s not big enough for a beach and a landing. The water table is only 3 feet down at the beach. It can’t handle the water unless the landing comes out, and the rain garden and filtration system gets bigger.
There are two other landings on the lake, one DNR landing on the south end of the lake and one at Ridgewood Bay Resort, and one road that leads down to the lake for ice fishermen. Which is more than enough; the lake is only about 240 acres in size.
Mark Basiletti of the of the Minnesota Soil Conservation has grant money to put in a rain garden and filtration system in this beach, which won’t cost the residents money. The money is already here. Baldwin Township has already approved this with the landing coming out which has been discussed for three meetings.
Another problem is at 56 feet of shoreline, people are launching their boats while kids are swimming. This is a real hazard. Children are in danger; the beach is not big enough for both a beach and a landing. There was almost an incident on May 10, 2011, involving children.
In May of 2008 Jen Oknich of Sherburne County Zoning Department, environment specialist, sent a letter to Baldwin Township which says, “I brought concerns I heard on site and pictures to Sherburne County Zoning staff, and together we reviewed your options. We agree with you that creating a boat launch using a DNR blanket permit may not be practical at this location for several reasons; the slope would not be conductive to a 40-foot-long access (the DNR maximum), more grading may be required than the DNR permit allows, no lot on a lake may exceed 25 percent in impervious surfaces, parking lots and driveways must stay out of the building setback zone (75 feet from the lake), and Little Elk Lake already has two other public accesses — one a very well maintained access, cared for cooperatively with the DNR.
“We highly recommend using this area as a picnic or low impact public recreation area. With the addition of rainwater garden and native landscaping this area can be a very low maintenance and aesthetically pleasing location. Landscaping with natives would not only enhance the site visually, but also would slow or stop erosion, provide an educational opportunity, enhance infiltration, attract butterflies and filter pollutants and sediments from run-off, keeping the lake cleaner.
“While the above is the opinion of county staff, we highly recommend you do not build a third boat launch on Little Elk Lake, and create a low-maintenance public area with native landscaping. Remember, no parking is allowed on this parcel.”
Baldwin Township put the cement landing on this beach six months later, Oct. 3, 2008.
Baldwin Township — Sherburne County regulations say that it shall be unlawful for any person to operate any watercraft in a designated swimming area.
The Little Elk Lake Improvement Association (LELIA) held a general membership meeting on June 18, 2011, and discussed the township plans to improve the shoreline at the beach property on 285th Street. They discussed both options with and without the concrete boat landing. It is the recommendation of the LELIA Board and membership to select the option which will allow the land to be utilized to control as much runoff as possible and have the most potential to improve the water quality of the lake, by a vote of 21 to 0.
The plat map and developer, which built this area of Elk Lake Estates No. 1 in 1950, dedicated the beaches to the community now and forever; it does not say anything about landings. Sherburne County says the plat map is the overruling law of the beaches at Elk Lake Estates.
There are some who oppose this. They think that their personal use is more important than the environment, and the safety of our children and our grandchildren. Our future is more important. Look at the Mississippi River — they say not to eat more than one fish a month due to pollutants. The time is to stop the pollution now. These are the facts.
The next Baldwin Town meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Aug. 8. Please be there. We want to enjoy our clean lake and our heritage. — Blane Ding, Baldwin Township and Shelley Larson, Baldwin Township

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