Helping hands honor earth, lake, and community on Earth Day

Loon Lake Land Conservancy volunteers plant 200 trees to celebrate Earth Day and protect a lake for future generations

By ElizaBeth Coira

On a sunny Saturday morning, April 22, amidst the cackles of red-necked grebes, the croaks of frogs, and the trills of red-winged blackbirds, smiling volunteers began to arrive by the carload. It was Earth Day and the Loon Lake Land Conservancy (LLLC) had put out a call to neighbors to help reforest a small section of preciously scarce wetland hugging the western shore of Loon Lake, part of the LLLC’s Anderson Meadow Wetland.


The area is one of the last remaining, critically important wetlands working to keep Loon Lake clean, healthy, and full; while providing viable habitat to a wide range of wildlife that residents absolutely adore. Over 1,000 feet of waterfront wetlands and 130 acres of meadow and forested uplands comprise this vital, lake-sustaining area. And once upon a time, the section to be reforested this day had been filled in and graveled by a previous owner bent on development. Later, invasive knapweed began to take over.


With the help of generous donors and volunteers, the LLLC was able to purchase and protect much of the land comprising Anderson Meadow Wetland in fall 2020 and winter 2021, and spray aggressive knapweed in May 2022 to curtail its spread. Now, in April 2023, volunteers were finally suited up, ready to replant what was once nearly lost.


LLLC Volunteer Coordinator Jerry Kuntz warmly welcomed 17 neighbors with a briefing on planting “best practices” for the 200 quaking aspen he procured from a nursery in Tekoa, Washington. “Our hope is to replant where knapweed invaded, with a forest of beautiful aspen that is a lovely green in spring and summer, and a gorgeous golden in fall.” Because the native quaking aspen are fast growing and can thrive around water, Kuntz explained that they are also a good choice to survive and grow through the poured gravel that has altered this section of the wetlands.


Volunteers worked in teams to dig holes, plant, water, mulch, and place protectors around each six-inch seedling, to give them the best start possible in their new home. Local business Top Notch Trees donated a truckload of mulch used to backfill the trees.


Neighbor Steve Nepean took a brief break from digging holes with his wife Pam to say, “What we’re doing today is an excellent opportunity to restore the land back to its natural state and to do it with a group of people that all enjoy doing the same thing. It’s a great family activity and a great neighborhood activity to work together. If we can improve the environment for future generations, I think that’s the important thing.”
Nearby, another couple, Holly and Terry Boxleitner were also hard at work planting little aspen. Terry noted, “We live, walk, and bike by this area daily. Reclaiming this spot that had started to be developed will improve the natural beauty of the area, help with filtration of runoff into the water, and help give wildlife places to be.” Holly added, “We’re really happy to help!”


Avid fisherman Steve Roffler, who has been at Loon Lake for over 50 years, reflected, “We really love it up here. Preserving the lake is a big deal to us because I know we have some problems. I think what the Land Conservancy is doing to preserve these wetlands is very important, and I just love helping out whenever I can. I wasn’t really aware of how important these wetlands are to protect the lake and my property value until I joined the Conservancy about five or six years ago. I also learned we have some problems with oxygen levels on the bottom of the lake. And with the past two years so dry, I noticed just before last summer that the water level was the lowest I’ve ever seen. I want to do everything I can to help protect Loon Lake. It isn’t fed by big rivers, but by runoff and springs, and the only way we’re going to keep the lake going is to protect some of these wetlands.”


Diligently digging nearby, another neighbor, Diane Gershon, nodded in agreement and opened up about the source of her motivation to volunteer. “I believe that humans are here to be custodians of what God has created,” Gershon said. “Anything we can do to nurture what He has already created, that’s why I’m choosing to be here and help put these trees into Loon Lake. And hopefully for generations to come we can enjoy and appreciate the splendor of these aspens.”


Whether your motivation is spiritual, financial, altruistic, or familial; it’s clear that if we all do a little, a lot can be accomplished. And judging from the grins and happy chatter of volunteers, it sure sounds like a whole lot of fun.


The LLLC, which was started by a group of concerned neighbors in 2002, currently has ten properties purchased or placed in permanent conservation easements around the lake, amounting to 1,140 feet of waterfront wetlands and 183 acres of wetland, meadow, and timbered uplands.


Would you like to join in on the fun, while also helping to protect this lake of statewide significance? To learn more about the LLLC, including volunteer, conservation easement, and tax-deductible donation opportunities, visit LoonLakeLandConservancy.org