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Lake County, Ohio - Soil & Water Conservation District

About Lake SWCD

    History of Lake SWCD

    Lake County Soil Conservation District was incorporated on Jan 20th, 1947.  This was the result of a local steering committee's work in bringing forth a referendum.  On July 24th of 1946, 89% of Lake County residents voted for the creation of what would become Lake SWCD.  The first Board of Supervisors was elected on October 17th of 1946.  At this time, the soil conservation districts were very agricultural in focus, and only operated in land outside of corporation limits, and farmland within corporation limits.  In the 1940's over 50% of Lake County was still farmland.  Among the items on the first five-year plan, completed in 1946, were to 'develop plans for the best use of cropland, pasture land, woodland, wildlife, and other natural resources' and 'develop a water control program to control erosion.'  Monthly meetings were held at the Madison post office.

    The 1950's saw the District take on farm tours and a forestry program in cooperation with the Extension Service.  By the time Lake S(W)CD was 10 years old, it had assisted 289 farms totaling 25,765 acres.  This was largely funded by county and state allocations.  In 1958, the District took to the air, offering aerial conservation tours to 306 people.

    The 'W' entered Lake County Soil Conservation District in 1963.  At that time, Lake County was the fastest growing area of the country, and the District activities began to shift towards farmland preservation and urban erosion control. 1963 also marked the beginning of involvement with Arcola Creek.  The Lake and Ashtabula County commissioners and ODNR authorized the USDA to conduct a study of the watershed.  In 1966, a tri-county field office was created in Chesterland.  Lake, Geauga and Cuyahoga SWCDs sought to enhance their services by sharing equipment and specialists.

    In the 1970's, Lake SWCD first sponsored students to Forestry Camp, held a Pond Clinic at Holden Arboretum, and disbanded the tri-county office as Geauga SWCD moved to Burton.  Cuyahoga and Lake counties opened a new office in Willoughby Hills.  Drainage was the hot issue of the day, and the Lake County Soil Survey was completed in 1979.  Also, most of the current district staff were born in this decade.

    Lake SWCD reinvented itself in the 1980's, the same decade it almost ceased to exist, due to lack of funding.  The Cuyahoga and Lake offices split, with Al Bonnis being the sole employee in the new Lake county office, a storefront in Wickliffe outfitted with cast off furniture from the Atomic Energy Commission.  The district bought its first computer in 1987.  As things picked up, a secretary and a part-time education coordinator were hired.  The board of supervisors began to shift toward younger, urban-oriented people who were willing to try new things.  The office also moved to Painesville by the end of the decade.  Many of the current district projects have their roots in the 1980's. 

    New funding sources, including EPA grants, and municipal appropriations combined with increased county funding to provide personnel for urban issues in the early 1990's.  Education programming was funded by a $100,000 grant from the Mastin Foundation.  Land labs were also established at many schools throughout the county.  Lake SWCD also signed memorandums of understanding with various cities, townships, and villages, as well as the county health department.  Non-point source pollution also became a topic of interest, and the District participated in several EPA studies on the topic.  Conservation easements also entered the picture, as a way to preserve farmland and open space.  The district was recognized as one of the top two districts in the state in 1992, even though (or because) it didn't do any of the 'typical' soil and water district activities.  

    Currently, Lake SWCD is still involved in many of the programs started in the 80's and 90's.  The last few years of district activities are written on the other pages of this website.