Friends of Lake Panorama Celebrates Fourth Anniversary

By Susan Thompson

Friends of Lake Panorama is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity dedicated to supporting recreational amenities at Lake Panorama. The charity is separate from the Lake Panorama Association, and is governed by a volunteer, seven-member board of directors. In this month’s Q&A, Jan Reinicke, current Friends president, talks about completed projects, current priorities and future goals.

Q. The fourth anniversary of the Friends of Lake Panorama is coming soon. Tell us about the timeline of events.

A. The first meeting of the Friends of Lake Panorama board of directors was December 3, 2013. An application for nonprofit status was filed with the IRS in January 2014, and approved in July 2014. Fundraising began in October 2014 with two priority projects – a new playground at Sunset Beach and renovated sports courts at Lake Panorama National. 

In May 2016, we completed a successful $80,000 fundraising campaign to build the Sunset Beach playground. The LPA provided an additional $50,000. The playground equipment was installed in mid-July last year. The finishing touches were added this year, with three benches and a donor recognition sign. We’re happy to see so many children and their families enjoying this great new addition to our community.

Our early efforts to raise money for renovating the LPN tennis courts attracted some donors, but the project didn’t generate enough interest to be viable. With the playground complete, we made new sports courts at Boulder Beach our next priority.

Q. Give us an update on the sports courts.

A. The goal of our Friends board was to raise $150,000 for new tennis, pickleball and basketball courts at Boulder Beach, and get the sports courts installed in 2017. It was exciting to raise the needed funds, and get the construction process underway. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to get the concrete vendor to the project this year, because of previous commitments and a wet fall. Now the courts are at the top of the vendor’s list for next spring, and the work will be done as soon as weather permits. We’re hoping that means concrete can be poured in late April, the sports courts tile will be laid a few days later, and the fencing will follow. We expect play on all the courts to be possible sometime in May.

As with the Sunset Beach playground, fundraising for the sports courts was a cooperative effort. Friends had about $7,500 in “seed money” from 2014 when we initially tried to raise money for sports courts. We got an early boost when the LPA board voted in October 2016 to commit at least $50,000, once Friends raised $50,000. Another benchmark was the $25,000 pledge from Mark and Karen Einck for the basketball court, once the initial $100,000 level was raised.

Donations were strong through the end of 2016 and into early 2017. The Beach Ball we held in early May put us over $50,000. At its meeting later that month, the LPA board of directors voted to match the $75,000 raised by Friends, and proceed with construction.    

When complete, the courts will include one regulation tennis court, with two regulation pickleball courts adjacent. These three courts will be inside the same fenced enclosure.

A separate fence will surround a basketball court that is slightly smaller than regulation size. It will feature two half courts with Goalsetter MVP basketball systems and white lines. There will be some space between the two fenced court areas, with plans to install at least two benches between the courts.

Q. In August, Friends of Lake Panorama received $473,000 from the estate of James and Joyce McLuen to be used at the Panorama West golf course. What’s happening with those funds?

When the Friends board of directors began to discuss ways to use this gift, there was agreement we needed to get input from LPA members, especially those who play the Panorama West golf course. A special open meeting was scheduled for September 11, and was designed to give anyone interested the chance to comment on how they would like to see the gift used.

At that meeting, representatives of each of the three Panorama West golf leagues presented ideas raised at earlier league meetings. Individuals also made suggestions. We also received ideas from members who completed a short survey, and left ideas in a suggestion box in the Panorama West pro shop. 

It was decided a task force made up of three representatives each from the Friends of Lake Panorama board of directors and the Lake Panorama National board of managers would review all suggestions, and draft a recommendation to present to these two boards. After those two boards provide input, a final recommendation will be presented to the LPA board of directors at its November meeting.

The task force held its first meeting September 27. They toured the golf course and reviewed the list of all ideas presented at the input meeting, plus submitted via email and the suggestion box.

We were fortunate to have three turfgrass specialists from the Iowa State University Department of Horticulture also tour the course that day. Some of the projects they discussed were irrigation, improving the turf condition on tee boxes and fairways, tee box and directional signage, bunker renovations, and concrete cart paths in selected locations. They also offered ongoing support as needed. 

Task force members discussed the observations made by the ISU turfgrass specialists, and the fact many of the projects mentioned also had been highlighted by Panorama West members at the input meeting and in direct contacts. The task force members next prioritized potential projects, and are working with staff to gather project cost estimates. For now, the McLuen funds are invested in short-term CDs.

Over the next few years, I expect the McLuen gift to make a tremendous difference in the quality of the Panorama West golf course. Their generous gift is a wonderful example of long-time Lake Panorama residents who cared about this particular recreational amenity, and made a decision to help support something they loved by including a bequest in their will.

We hope this gift will encourage others to think about the future impact they can have on recreational amenities at Lake Panorama, either through an estate gift, some other financial planning mechanism, or a direct donation now.  

Q. Will you be sponsoring another Beach Ball fundraiser in 2018?

A. The Friends board has discussed this, and currently we’re not planning a Beach Ball in May as we’ve done the last two years. Those events were held to raise money for specific projects, and we think that was the main reason for our success. But fundraising is ongoing, and we’re always looking for new ways to engage possible donors. We’d like for the next Beach Ball to actually be on one of Lake Panorama’s great beaches, so we continue to discuss fundraising event options for 2018 and beyond. We’re always happy to hear suggestions for possible ways to raise money for recreational amenities at Lake Panorama.

We will continue to solicit donations for the sports court project until May 2018, which will be used to help pay for additional expenses such as benches and signage. While donations of all sizes are welcome, only donors of $500 or more are recognized on the Friends website. A sign listing these donors also will be installed next spring near the courts.

Donations also can be directed to any of the three beaches; to a golf course beautification fund, with the opportunity to designate either Lake Panorama National or Panorama West; or to a general fund, which is used at the discretion of the Friends’ board.  

Donations can be made in someone’s memory or in honor of someone. Checks can be mailed to PO Box 488, Panora, Iowa, 50216. Donations also can be accepted electronically on the website at www.friendsoflakepanorama.org.

Donations of securities (stocks, mutual funds, etc.) are sold once transferred, with the proceeds deposited into the Friends bank account. A securities account has been established with GCSB Investment Center in Panora. All contributions are tax deductible, and donors receive a receipt for tax preparation purposes.

Elsewhere in this November issue of the Lake Panorama Times, you’ll find a full-page ad that details some of the highlights of the first four years of the Friends of Lake Panorama. It includes a coupon that can be clipped and submitted with mailed donations.

Q. What else has Friends been involved in during 2017?

A rain garden was installed June 10 near the Panorama West clubhouse. A rain garden is a perennial flower garden strategically located to capture runoff from rain that falls on parking lots, roofs, driveways and yards. Rain gardens help reduce surface runoff and protect water quality.

An existing water drain on the east side of the Panorama West parking lot receives rainfall runoff, and the garden covers 500 square feet surrounding this drain. LPA staff provided materials and prepared the site. A total of 170 native plants, featuring a dozen different varieties, were planted by volunteers. This garden is a pilot project to show how rain gardens work, and hopefully will spur interest among others. A sign erected near the garden gives more details, plus recognizes key partners.

The cost of the rain garden was $2,500. Friends received $1,250 in cost-share funding for the rain garden through the Guthrie County Soil and Water Conservation District. This is another great example of a project that appealed to a segment of Lake Panorama residents, and on which the LPA and Friends cooperated to produce the final result.

Q. What kind of impact do you think Friends of Lake Panorama has had so far on the Lake Panorama community, and can have in the future?

A. Friends of Lake Panorama is the perfect opportunity to forge a strong partnership with the Lake Panorama Association to improve the recreational opportunities here at the lake. Working together, we have the potential to really improve the quality of life for current and future residents. While the LPA’s focus, out of necessity, needs to be on safety, security and infrastructure needs, Friends of Lake Panorama can be a catalyst and support group focusing on the amenities our community members desire.  

Our working relationship with the LPA is good, as that board stepped forward to provide matching funds for both the Sunset Beach playground and the Boulder Beach sports courts. The LPA also contributed labor and some materials for the playground, the sports courts, and the Panorama West rain garden. I think this is an excellent model as we move forward and identify additional projects.  

The future gives us an opportunity to further engage community members. Our first two projects were the result of some long term desires to see a playground at Sunset Beach and improved sports courts. To keep our momentum moving forward, we will need to develop a more formalized process for seeking valuable input on establishing priorities. We look forward to working with LPA members to get that done.

 

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