Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Vermilion Lake Association celebrates 50 years

Jodi Summit
Posted 8/16/18

COOK- The Vermilion Lake Association celebrated its 50th anniversary in style, on Saturday, with an afternoon picnic and informational fair held at Camp Vermilion.

Over 300 members and friends …

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Vermilion Lake Association celebrates 50 years

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COOK- The Vermilion Lake Association celebrated its 50th anniversary in style, on Saturday, with an afternoon picnic and informational fair held at Camp Vermilion.

Over 300 members and friends attended the free picnic. VLA now has about 1,400 members.

“Attendance was good, the weather was good, and the food was good,” said Jeff Stebbins, a VLA volunteer who led the year-long effort to organize the event.

A major goal was to let members see all the work the association has been doing to support the lake.

“People don’t realize all we do for the lake,” Stebbins said. “We are not just about fishing and hunting.”

The organization recently changed its name from the Sportsmen’s Club of Lake Vermilion to the Vermilion Lake Association in recognition of the organization’s changing goals.

“We are all about protecting our lake,” Stebbins said, noting that a major concern now is invasive species and invasive vegetation. In addition, the group maintains shore lunch sites, conducts the annual loon count, works on invasive species detection and boat decontamination stations, works on issues such as cormorant control, works on rough fish removal (suckers), works with the DNR Fisheries, works boating safety issues and navigation lights, and water quality protection issues.

This benefits all lakeshore property owners and lake users, he said. “It’s a win-win.”

VLA board members noted that grant monies they receive help fund specific projects, such as the AIS work. Membership dues help fund the rest of the organization’s work.

“The DNR and St. Louis County don’t have the resources to manage every lake,” said Stebbins, noting the lake association has the member volunteers and Vermilion knowledge to get projects done.

Informational booths highlighted the work the lake association does, along with work being done by other partner associations, including the MN DNR, St. Louis County, University of Minnesota Sea Grant, U.S. Forest Service, and the Lake Vermilion Trail. Besides highlighting the importance of preventing the spread of invasive species, there was information on the lake’s fisheries, shore lunch sites (maintained by VLA in cooperation with the DNR and USFS), programs to help landowners create natural shoreline vegetation (North St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District), the loon count program, the planned paved Lake Vermilion bike trail, and more.

“The whole idea was creating the opportunity for people to ask questions, one-on-one,” said VLA President Terry Grosshauser.

The event was part of a year-long celebration for the lake association, which was founded back in 1968.

“The Vermilion Lake Association is not just for lakeshore property owners,” said VLA president Terry Grosshauser. “It is for everyone who has an interest in a healthy lake.”

“The goal of this picnic was to celebrate our first 50 years and to increase awareness of the challenges ahead,” said celebration committee chair Jeff Stebbins. “It is a time to highlight initiatives being taken by the association to preserve the lake environment in the future.”

The outdoor location at Camp Vermilion, in their new dining hall/event center, was a very appropriate setting. With the lake only a short walk down a wooded trail, members gathered on the wide shaded deck to visit the booths, and then moved indoors for a picnic meal.

Association history

The Vermilion Lake Association was founded 50 years ago, as the Sportsmen’s Club of Lake Vermilion. The group was formed in response to concerns of a group of resort owners over the declining walleye fishery on the lake. According to the history of the club published in the Vermilion Sportsman newsletter, the DNR had closed down the fish hatchery on Pike Bay in 1946 due in part to concerns that too many walleye eggs were being removed from the lake and not enough walleyes were being re-stocked.

In 1968, Jay Mault, who owned Vermilion Dam Lodge, along with resort-owners Bob Mann (Mann’s Resort, now Voyageur Cove Resort) and Theodore Anderson (Anderson’s Resort, now Head-o-Lake Resort) and others; Val Cook of Cold Springs, Inc.; Elton Olson of the Tower Chamber of Commerce; Bill Ellison of Minnesota Power; John Aronson of Aronson Boat Works; and Abel Anderson decided to form an organization to help solve the problem. They founded the “Sportsmen’s Club of Lake Vermilion” and got to work. They called for others around the lake to join the club, at annual dues of $3. The dues were kept low because they understood that, as Jay said, “We don’t need money, we need a voice.” By the time the club held its first annual meeting in August, membership had grown to 1,700 and The Vermilion Sportsman newsletter had been launched.

In February 1968, a group led by Mault met with Conservation Commissioner Jarle Leirfallom, equivalent to the current DNR Commissioner. Leirfallom agreed to issue permits so that the group could trap suckers and other rough fish that were believed to cut into walleye populations, and he assigned a team of biologists to figure out why the fishing was so poor.

The persistent efforts of the SCLV board and the support of a few legislators helped convince the Department of Fisheries to reopen the hatchery, which it did in 1972. Club founders had their hands full with their businesses and families. The easy course would have been to disband once the suckers were vanquished and the hatchery fight was won. Instead, they decided to continue working to improve the lake and its fishing.

The organization’s current priority programs – aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention and fisheries management – have been pushed to the top by today’s circumstances. In addition, its volunteers are engaged in many other community service programs to support Lake Vermilion. Taken together, they tell the full story of the Vermilion Lake Association’s strong commitment to this great lake. You can learn more about the association by visiting their website at vermilionlakeassociation.org.

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