Commissioner Dianne Novak unwittingly hit a hot button Monday when she suggested a county lake cleanup week.
Novak showed photos of other lakes in the region, beautifully tended and inviting. Then she passed around photos of Marion County Park and Lake, showing red cedar trees too close to shore and large, dead-appearing trees along the bank. The photos also showed rotted benches and piles of limbs in a picnic area.
“This is years of neglect,” Novak said.
Commission chair Randy Dallke cut in to chide her not to say “neglect.”
“There’s been somebody working out there,” Dallke said.
“This took years,” Novak responded.
Novak said the lake “could be a gold mine” and represents the fourth-largest portion of the county’s tax base.
Novak called for the commission to issue a permit allowing residents to undertake a lake cleanup.
“I personally would volunteer and donate to the county lake the boards to replace the ones on the picnic tables,” Novak said.
Novak also asked that the county hire someone to cut down large dead trees at the lake.
Lake superintendent Steve Hudson contended that dead trees in the lake have wildlife on them, though he admitted black locust trees need to be removed.
“We’re doing what we can out there, it’s just with a short crew,” Hudson said.
Lake resident Gordon Pendergraft, one of 15 lake property owners who crowded into the room for the discussion, told commissioners the condition of the lake could spell liability problems for the county.
“We’ve got floating logs out there,” Pendergraft said. “Skiers are going to kill themselves and who’s going to be liable? The county’s going to be.”
Pendergraft also said the road and bridge department could help with removal of dead trees from the water.
“We’ve got equipment, let’s get it out and start doing something with it,” said lake resident Garry Dunnegan.
Dunnegan said property taxes at the lake are high and residents are not getting much service for their tax dollars. Dunnegan pointed out that one lake resident has kept two inoperable vehicles on their property for years.
Dunnegan also complained about cattle in the east end of the lake.
Dunnegan’s property was discussed at commission meeting two weeks ago, when Dallke contended Hudson had sent him a text saying Novak had given Dunnegan permission to cut down a tree and dump rocks. At that meeting, Dallke suggested fencing Dunnegan’s property off from the lake.
Dunnegan was agitated when he complained about rocks being dumped on his property, blocking his access. He’d been told the rock-dumping was at Dallke’s order, he said.
Dallke denied he’d given such an order.
Pendergraft said lake residents need rules about what can be done at the lake.
Commissioners voted to permit cleanup of a section of lake from Upland Rd northeast to the low water concrete bridge, without tree cutting, the last week of April.