Logos of Lake Leelanau Lake Association and Friends of Lake Leelanau.

What’s the Difference: LLLA and Friends of Lake Leelanau?

If you’re attending Leelanau County community events this summer, you might see representatives from the Lake Leelanau Lake Association (LLLA) and/or Friends of Lake Leelanau (Friends). Both organizations are working to spread the message of the importance of protecting Lake Leelanau and its watershed, which may lead to some confusion on how to differentiate the two. But we are here to help!

The following article answers the question, "What's the difference between LLLA and Friends of Lake Leelanau?" And by doing so, we hope that the great importance of both organizations is better understood.

About the LLLA

LLLA is a 40-year-old organization with approximately 485 members. The Association leads the charge to coordinate and implement programs necessary to protect Lake Leelanau in the short term. For most of the past 40 years, LLLA has been supported financially by its members to fund its efforts to:

  1. Monitor Lake Leelanau's water quality
  2. Prevent, monitor and control aquatic invasive species
  3. Promote water safety
  4. Educate community members on the fundamentals of lake stewardship
  5. Understand the causes of and methods to prevent swimmer's itch

In 2019, an aquatic plant, Eurasian watermilfoil (EWM), was discovered in Lake Leelanau. This plant has been identified by scientists as the single most invasive aquatic plant in North America. Its presence in Lake Leelanau is the most serious environmental threat Lake Leelanau has ever faced.

EWM spreads quickly and easily and, if left unchecked, can cover a lake with a thick carpet of weeds. It is difficult to swim, boat and fish in lakes infested with EWM. Moreover, property values of homes on weed-infested lakes decline sharply. To combat the threat, the LLLA partnered with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB) to develop and implement a comprehensive aquatic invasive species remediation program.

LLLA's Efforts to Stop the Spread

The goal of this program is to use non-chemical methods to control EWM in Lake Leelanau and to protect the natural and recreational resources of the lake. To achieve this, LLLA and GTB utilize biodegradable benthic barriers to kill EWM in large infested areas with few to no native plants. LLLA also engages trained SCUBA divers to pull weeds in areas with smaller infestations by hand.

In addition to these efforts, the initiative involves preventative measures, including the construction of an additional boat cleaning station and educational initiatives. The program also uses the deployment of sophisticated monitoring technologies—including aerial and underwater drones—to map and monitor infested sites so LLLA can track the spread of invasive species and monitor the success of their remediation programs. LLLA's program is led by:

  • Brian Price, Lake Biologist
  • Ron Reimink, EWM Project Manager
  • Annalise Povolo, LLLA Director of Administration and Programs 

Povolo, among other things, is a certified SCUBA diving instructor and ecologist. Nancy Popa, LLLA Lake Stewardship Ambassador, leads the effort to construct a second boat cleaning station and works with Povolo to coordinate the LLLA’s educational initiatives.

The annual costs of measures necessary to control the threat of EWM and other aquatic invasive species in Lake Leelanau are significant. While LLLA has been able to fund these programs in the short term with contributions from individuals and families, LLLA does not have the capacity to raise the considerable funds needed year after year far into the future to prevent, monitor and control AIS in Lake Leelanau. Friends of Lake Leelanau was formed to address this unmet need.

About Friends of Lake Leelanau

In the fall of 2021, Friends of Lake Leelanau was established as an independent public foundation by a group of concerned citizens with longstanding ties to Lake Leelanau. The group conceived the idea to create a foundation when it became clear that there was no viable alternative to protecting the lake from invasive species and other threats. The supporters believe an independent foundation would be better equipped to address the long-term needs of the lake than, for example, a new unit of local government. 

Friends of Lake Leelanau’s mission is to protect the waters of Lake Leelanau in perpetuity. The foundation raises funds throughout the year and places them in an endowment. The income generated from this endowment will be distributed to tax-exempt nonprofit organizations that have the capacity to help Friends of Lake Leelanau achieve its mission. A portion of the donations, or income from the donations, may be used to pay for administrative needs, fundraising, or other costs related to the management of the endowment. Should other challenges threaten Lake Leelanau in the future, the income from the endowment may also be used to address the new threats.

To meet the financial needs of protecting Lake Leelanau, Friends of Lake Leelanau’s goal is to raise between $6 and 8 million. Last year, it was inaccurately reported by one newspaper that donors had already committed $5 million to establish the foundation. Rather, several donors had agreed to take the lead to raise an endowment of this size.

Friends has already secured commitments from donors who have agreed to match dollar-for-dollar any additional donations of up to $2.5 million. Once Friends of Lake Leelanau Foundation’s financial goal is met, it will be the only existing organization with the resources to protect Lake Leelanau in perpetuity.

Donating to LLLA and Friends of Lake Leelanau

Both the LLLA and Friends of Lake Leelanau accept donations throughout the year. While donations to both organizations will be used for the purpose of protecting and preserving Lake Leelanau, how contributions will be used by the two organizations differs.

  • Donations to LLLA will be used to finance annual operating expenses, the vast majority of which are related to EWM control, AIS prevention measures, education, monitoring water quality, etc. If you would like to donate to the LLLA, please use the prompts detailed on LLLA's website.

  • Funds donated to Friends of Lake Leelanau will be used to help create an endowment, the income from which will be distributed to tax-exempt organizations focused on improving the aquatic health of Lake Leelanau. The goal of Friends is to create a fund that will protect Lake Leelanau in perpetuity. If you wish to donate to Friends of Lake Leelanau, please follow the instructions on its donation page or contact [email protected].

Should you have any questions regarding the difference between LLLA and Friends of Lake Leelanau, please send a note to [email protected], or submit an inquiry via our contact form.

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