by Scott Brown
Michigan Lake Stewardship Associations
Formed in 1961 by an enthusiastic group of waterfront property owners who recognized the potential for common-interest driven voluntary lake and stream associations to contribute to preserving our freshwater resources and our riparian rights, Articles of Incorporation formalizing the establishment of the Association of Michigan Lakes and Streams Associations (AML&SA) were filed with the State of Michigan on Monday, January 28th, 1963. Launching our now 57 year old organization with no more than a mere 400 bucks cash on hand, an initial membership of just a few lake associations, and an abundance of commitment, ideas, and energy, the fledgling organization would establish a Board of Directors, open a central office, begin a monthly newsletter, grow to over 100 associations, launch the now widely circulated Michigan Riparian magazine in 1965, and hold ten consecutive highly successful annual conferences by the year 1970.
Submitting the necessary paper work with the Michigan Attorney General Charitable Trust Division and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to change the name of the organization in early 1970, the abbreviated and much easier to pronounce name Michigan Lake and Stream Associations (ML&SA) would be approved on Friday, June 12, 1970. Achieving steady membership and revenue growth throughout the decade, the organization’s first Executive Director, Mr. Donald E. Winne, a retired public high school teacher and administrator from Elkhart, Indiana, and by then a full time lakefront resident of Corey Lake in St. Joseph County Michigan, would be hired in the late 1970’s, and a new central office established in downtown Three Rivers. At about the same time, an energetic and always enthusiastic Pearl Bonnell of Long Lake, Michigan, located near Alpena, would be hired as Director of Operations. It is important to note that Pearl’s lakefront residence would remain the de facto ML&SA northern office until her retirement many years later. Often referred to as the “dynamic duo”, Pearl and Don devoted nearly three decades of their highly productive lives traveling throughout the state while working with lake associations to improve their capacity to preserve and protect their respective freshwater resources.
It is interesting to note that although the founders of our organization envisioned serving an active membership comprised of both lake and stream property owners associations, for reasons that are not yet well understood, the concept of stream property owners associations never really took hold in Michigan. A comprehensive review of ML&SA year-to-year membership revealed that with the important exception of our individual and corporate members, our membership has always been comprised primarily of voluntary lakefront property owners associations.
Honoring our past, and recognizing the vital role Michigan’s lake associations in preserving the health and vitality of our inland lake heritage for the future, our Board of Directors recently voted to change the name of our organization to Michigan Lake Stewardship Associations (MLSA). Wikipedia defines stewardship as “an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources”. Readers should know that although we have changed our name to more accurately reflect the mission and people we strive to serve on a day-to-day basis, our organization remains steadfastly committed to the idea that pro-active lakefront property owner voluntary associations are in the best position to advocate for riparian rights, and inland lake protection and preservation in Michigan.