Q2 Update – Lake Monroe Community Action Initiative

Our big focus this quarter was hosting community forums to increase awareness of (and support for) the Lake Monroe Watershed Management Plan. We hosted three forums:

  • Bloomington on Tuesday May 24th
  • Nashville on Thursday June 9th
  • Virtual on Wednesday June 15th via Zoom

THANK YOU to the 60 community members who participated, to the volunteers who helped facilitate our group discussions, to the League of Women Voters for organizing, to the Brown County Public Library and St. Thomas Lutheran Church for hosting, and to the Community Foundation and Monroe County Stormwater for their financial support.  A recording of the 10-minute presentation given at each forum is available on our website.  The top three threats to water quality in Lake Monroe are sediment, nutrients, and bacteria (fecal contamination).  We presented information about likely sources of the threats (including poor agricultural practices, streambank erosion, and leaking septic systems) and potential solutions (including increased adoption of conservation practices, streambank stabilization, and proper septic system maintenance).

After a short Q&A session, participants were divided into small groups and invited to discuss the following questions: How can we bring volunteers together to address these issues?  Assume we have access to plentiful resources – money, materials, and communication channels.  What can we do?  What other groups and individuals should be involved?  Each small group discussed their ideas for twenty minutes and then reported back to the larger group.

We received a wide variety of suggestions on how to engage the community including

  • Publish educational radio spots on the most popular radio stations
  • Provide volunteer opportunities to philanthropic student groups at IU
  • Develop educational materials about septic systems that realtors can distribute to new homeowners
  • Host events for children so that the children can go home and educate their parents.

We will integrate these ideas into our strategic plan for education and outreach over the next three years.  This fall, we anticipate receiving a grant that will fund 2.5 years of activities proposed in the watershed management plan.  A large part of the project will be a cost-share program funding conservation practices on agricultural land.  Funding will also be used for educational initiatives to encourage community members to take action by maintaining their septic systems, planting along streams and ponds, reducing fertilizer usage, volunteering with Friends of Lake Monroe, and much more.

Our Septic System Maintenance Cost-Share Pilot Program also continued through this quarter. A total of 96 vouchers were distributed since we launched in March and 78 reimbursement requests have been processed with a total reimbursement value of $6,890.  While applications are no longer being accepted, current participants have until the end of August to utilize their vouchers.  We hope to expand the program in the future and we continue to promote proper septic system maintenance through our website, social media, and brochures.

Other activities this quarter have included tabling at the Monroe County and Brown County Fairs, providing educational artwork to be used in the Monroe County Highway Department Annual Calendar, participating in the “Community Conversation: The Future of Lake Monroe” organized by the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, releasing a short radio spot on WGCL/WTTS/The Quarry about the septic program, and participating in an interview for Brown County Radio Hour on WFHB to promote the community forums.

Want to share your ideas for protecting Lake Monroe?  Have a group that would like to hear a presentation about our work?  Please reach out to Lake Monroe Watershed Coordinator Maggie Sullivan at watershed@friendsoflakemonroe.org or by phone at (812) 558-0217.

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