Marcie and Tom Hamel

October 2019 – Located a stone’s throw from busy Minnesota Highway 62 in the Lake Cornelia Neighborhood, small and tranquil Lake Nancy is a true urban oasis for the 20 families living around it. However, as Marcie and Tom Hamel can attest, this lakeshore property comes with its fair share of challenges.

For starters, Lake Nancy – and nearly all metro water bodies like it – are susceptible to unusually high concentrations of pollutants like phosphorus and chloride. Phosphorus is an inevitable byproduct of grass and leaf decomposition and is also found in many commercial fertilizers and potting soils. Chloride is an active ingredient in road salts.

In urban areas like Edina, where asphalt and concrete predominate, these pollutants are often carried by rain into lakes and pond. Chloride can be toxic to aquatic wildlife and phosphorus “may cause nuisance algae blooms,” Tom explained.

In 2014, the City of Edina updated its Lake & Pond Management Policy to better combat such threats – and empower residents to do the same.

"One thing private property owners can do to positively impact our lakes and ponds is form a lake group or association," Tom explained. The Hamels and their neighbors did just that, establishing the Lake Nancy Lake Association in 2016. Recognized as a nonprofit by the State of Minnesota, this body unifies lake residents and builds community around the shared goals for the lake, including algae abatement and other naturescape-preserving efforts.

While this is a big step forward, both Hamels have taken their devotion to Lake Nancy a step further.

Marcie pursued and attained certification as a Master Water Steward. Now in its sixth year, this “train-the-trainer” initiative is a partnership between more than a dozen Twin Cities communities and watershed districts. It teaches conservation advocates at the neighborhood level “how to educate property owners about lake improvement techniques, [such as] creating filtration zones, managing erosion and tending to stormwater drains," Marcie explained.

Graduation from the Master Water Steward program requires completion of a capstone project. In fulfillment of that requirement, Marcie opted to create a garden buffer zone along her own Lake Nancy waterfront. Natural filtration systems of this sort can be a surprisingly effective means of capturing pollutant-laden runoff before it trickles into lakes, she said.

According to the Master Water Steward program’s website, a 10-by-10 gardening plot can absorb up to 22.5 gallons of rainwater. Marcie's own buffer zone is slightly smaller, but well matched to Lake Nancy. "I chose all native plants, because they have a deep root system and are also bee friendly," she added. A grant secured from the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District allowed her to bring this capstone project to fruition.

Tom is no stranger to the cause, having spent much of his professional life with an Edina-based firm that educates commercial builders about water filtration and conservation products. He has also served as a citizen advisory member for the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District.

In 2018, Tom turned his life-long passion for the power and beauty of water into a book and photography exposé called The Wonder of Water: Fascinating Facts about Life's Sustaining Liquid. This literary debut put him in contention for not one but two 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

“In a time when we need to make intentional water management decisions, it is important that we have an informed society that understands and appreciates water’s value and purpose,” Tom said.