Lakes group seeking members

FAIRMONT – Fairmont Lakes Foundation is seeking members. What will a membership buy you? Not a customized gift with your name on it, but you will be part of a movement dedicated to improving the quality of local lakes.

While the foundation isn’t new, its voice in the community went unheard for many years. The group was first formed in 1988, and at that time, people were excited to be involved and membership support and volunteerism was high, recalled the current chairman of the board Mike Katzenmeyer.

That enthusiasm waned, and the foundation was mostly inactive until recently. Grants made available to lake associations prompted people to once again get involved and take ownership of Fairmont’s lakes.

This fall, a new board of directors was elected and the by-laws were rewritten. Now, the membership drive is under way.

Since the foundation’s list of members is seriously outdated – many have died, moved away, or simply lost interest since joining decades ago – the group decided to start fresh. The public plea for members is directed to all Fairmont residents and anyone who uses the lakes for recreation.

“Our main goal for getting this active again is that this is the only voice to advocate for our lakes, outside of the City Council and DNR,” Katzenmeyer said. “Otherwise, we had no citizen voice.”

The membership drive is intended in part to raise funds. The annual membership fee is $50; and lifetime memberships are $500. Since the group is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, membership fees and donations will be tax-deductible.

“Anybody who had a lifetime membership in the past, we’ll honor that, but we’d like to update it,” Katzenmeyer said.

The monies will help with projects not funded by city, state or federal dollars, or to enhance those projects that are. Many grants are only available with matching funds. Martin Soil & Water Conservation District has teamed up with the foundation in applying for these funds.

“We have several projects in the works now,” Katzenmeyer said, including an effort to clean up the invasive species that are taking over the road bank and lake shore where County Road 20 divides Mud and Amber lakes.

“We’re going to seed a nursery of native plants in the south waters of Amber Lake that would help create a fishery and protect the small fry from predator fish,” Katzenmeyer said.

The foundation also plans to work on educating lakeshore owners about good stewardship.

“Take a tour of the lakes from the water, and you’ll see a lot of ills created from neglect,” Katzenmeyer said.

This focus isn’t limited to people who live on the lake, though. Classes on rain gardens are planned too, so residents can help minimize runoff pollution from streets and other non-permeable surfaces, which makes its way through the city’s stormwater system and into the lakes.

“We’re never going to clean the lakes up 100 percent,” acknowledged Katzenmeyer, “but concepts like rain gardens … those are projects we can educate people about.”

The membership call list will also provide the board of directors another precious resource: potential volunteers.

Just this month, members worked in conjunction with the city of Fairmont to put out signs warning of thin ice to measure the frozen surface of George and Sisseton lakes, due to aeration systems.

“We drilled probably 150 holes in the ice,” Katzenmeyer said. “We’re the ones who put in all the signs on George and Sisseton lakes, because the lake oxygen is so low the city had to start the aerators. I don’t think a lot of people realize that was all volunteer work.”

Anyone interested in becoming a member or volunteering with Fairmont Lakes Foundation can contact Katzenmeyer at (507) 235-9534 or email

The annual membership meeting will be held the first Tuesday in September, where business will be conducted and members will elect the board of directors. Members and the general public are invited to bring forward requests and concerns for the board’s consideration throughout the year. Meetings are held at 5:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month in room 112 of Southern Minnesota Educational Campus.