The End of a Journey . . . My Years In Retrospect
Diana Robbins, Chairman of the Board
You should all know by now that after 14 years I have stepped down as President of the Lake Holden POA. It was a much tougher decision than I thought it was going to be, almost a feeling of loss of something that you have nurtured and protected, and embraced the transformation from something of poor quality into something beautiful. Upon acquiring the position, the new board and I stepped into an already begun tumultuous head on collision with the City of Edgewood resulting from the sale of property on Lake Holden by FDOT for the construction of the Central Connector which failed miserably, and long story short, ended up in the City of Edgewood holding the proceeds in an account for Lake Holden for 8 years. After an arduous battle and numerous emergency board meetings, meetings with attorneys, City Council meetings, and mediation proceedings, the City of Edgewood, out of a feeling of “moral obligation”, relinquished $50,000 to the Lake Holden POA, not nearly the amount it should have been.
From there, or pretty much at the same time, I learned how to write a grant and applied with Orange County for $25,000 to start the re-vegetation of Lake Holden, then pretty much devoid of plant life due to the introduction of white amur, or grass carp, years prior to help with invasive weed control, which was pretty much the demise of the lake. Upon presentation of the grant to the County, it was doubtful that we would get it. Seems they were all scratching their heads trying to figure it out, as grants were usually for beautification of neighborhoods, i.e. entryways, street lights, gazebos, etc. No one had ever submitted a grant application for water quality and submerged plant life. But I guess they liked what I had to say and they granted us the money and off we went! Contracts went out for bid and plants were brought in, as well as cages built to protect the delicate plants from their natural predators (turtles, fish, ducks, etc.) until they took hold and started to flourish. Success!!
So now it’s time to get really serious! I started attending the Water Advisory Board (WAB) Meetings, not only to gain additional knowledge regarding the lake’s history, but with the intent to form a partnership and ongoing working relationship between the WAB and the POA, and to be able to better inform and educate the property owners of what was going on in their backyard. Hence, the now agenda item of WAB updates at the POA meetings. From there the education process moved to the newsletter. At that time the newsletter was nothing more than a letter from the President. That was it! I felt YOU needed more, more education about the lake, so it grew into articles from other board members, a WAB report, contact information, helpful household tips, recipes, and paid advertising. You know, a REAL newsletter! Our newsletter turned out to be so good that it won an award from the County as best HOA/POA Newsletter!!
Now we get down to business with water clarity. When I first moved to Lake Holden in 1989 (yes, there’s an age thing there!), if you were standing in ankle deep water you could not see your toes . . . that’s how bad it was! With the WAB spearheading the institution of a project that had before been shot down, mostly due to lack of education, I therefore extended the invitation to Dr. Harvey Harper to give a presentation with a question and answer session regarding the proposed project. Dr. Harper, who has performed several studies of Lake Holden to give us direction on what needed to be done and in what order, to bring back the quality of Lake Holden, gave this presentation at our annual barbecue – the project, Surface Alum Treatment, Phase I. Everyone was tremendously enthused and excited, and I believe a big part of their enthusiasm was the fact that they were included in the process! So we were all in for the Surface Alum Treatment and it was an amazing thing to see from start to finish. And when I say from the start . . . I watched 18 tankers parade in front of our house and unload alum into a holding tank on our neighborhood lake lot (thank you Lake Holden Grove), and then to another tank on a barge to be distributed over the lake. The fully loaded barge was in a very precarious position so there was a mandated No Boating across the entire lake for several days during the process so as not to capsize the barge. Then came Phase II and the process was repeated. Now we can see more than our toes, and plant life and fish are flourishing!!!
Remember the day the POA Board got together and distributed door hangers and glued “No Dumping” signs on all the sewer grates around the lake? That was a fun day and we actually got to meet a lot of new people and explain to them what we were doing . . . more education! It’s all about education!!
There are many more ongoing projects that have transpired through the years, street sweeping, curb inlet filters, a CDS system, the alum treatment plant, the investigation into the Westmoreland Street property where it was determined by the State to be wetlands, negotiation of the annexation of the Albert Shores neighborhood into the City, construction of SODO and its impact on Lake Holden, just to name a few.
For the past 14 years it has been my passion to help push forward progress to regain the integrity and quality of Lake Holden. When initially starting this journey, Lake Holden was ranked 69 out of 70 of Central Florida’s “worst lakes”. I am proud to say that we now rank as one of the top 3!! We haven’t been called the most proactive POA/WAB in the State of Florida by the South Florida Water Management District for nothing!!!
Lake Holden is now at a point of maintenance. The groundwork has been laid and everything has been put in place for the next generation to carry on and continue what has been started. The worst is over and the hard part is done. The rest is up to you!
It is a wonderful feeling to see the fruits of your labor come to fruition! It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your President these past 14 years. I will still be a part of the Board and willing to help in any way I can.
Be A Part!