Lake Meetings in the Age Of Social Distancing
The restrictions on gathering brought on by the COVID-19 crisis leave many questions for lake organizations
By Michael Engleson, Executive Director
While the cancelation of large gatherings like the Wisconsin Lakes & Rivers Convention was clearly inevitable weeks ago, the ongoing and expanding health crisis presented by the new coronavirus is leading Wisconsin lake organizations to question upcoming events and even worry about the viability of necessary gatherings such as lake district annual meetings. At Wisconsin Lakes, we’re working with member lake organizations and local and state officials and lawmakers to help find solutions to these problems.
Lake District Annual Meetings in Jeopardy?
Lake district annual meetings, and, to a lesser extent, meetings of the commissioners, are especially problematic. By statute, lake districts must hold annual meetings between May 22 and Sep 8 (unless agreed upon differently at a previous annual meeting). Voting at the annual meeting must be done in person, so a virtual gathering is not possible. And of course, current limits on gatherings would not allow the meeting to take place, because how the government emergency orders in place apply to lake districts is at best ambiguous. While districts can push their meetings out to as close to the September deadline as possible, an unclear future is leading me to seek clarity from state government on how district’s should proceed. Look for more information on this from Wisconsin Lakes in the near future.
How lake organizations run other “administrative” meetings is also in question. From district commissioners meetings to lake association board meetings state statutes, regulations, and even organizational bylaws impact an organization’s ability to meet virtually and make decisions. We’re working on this issue as well and will provide guidance as we get it.
To plan or not to plan…
Finally, the many summer events – from big ones like the Northwest Wisconsin Lakes Conference to small ones like evening educational presentations hosted by a local association are all in flux. Most groups are holding off until the last possible moment to cancel (for instance, as of this writing the NW WI Lakes Conference is still going on as planned), as we don’t know how long social distancing will need to continue. But it is a hard decision right now in late March on how hard to work on an event in June or even early July.
Let’s Hang Out – Virtually!
To end on a positive note, one event that I truly hope will be able to go forward is another virtual experience. Once the temperatures rise, the weather improves, and the days stay bright just a little bit longer, Wisconsin Lakes hopes to host a “Virtual Lakeside Cocktail Party.” We’ll all get a chance to enjoy each other’s lake views, talk about how we’re handling the crisis, and maybe enjoy an Old Fashioned or iced tea together. For folks like me, stuck in landlocked Sun Prairie, it will be a great opportunity to see some water – even if through a computer or smartphone screen! More on that to come!
Wisconsin Lakes is working hard every day to help its member lake organizations overcome the problems being presented by the coronavirus health crisis. What other problems is your organization experiencing? Let us know – you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voicemail at (608) 661-4313. Here’s hoping you’re all safe and healthy and that we’ll see each other out on the water sooner then we expect!