LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Not far from the heavy traffic of Timberlake Road sits a peaceful neighborhood lake - the road's namesake.
"It's just an oasis for those of us who live here," said Denise Gillett, president of the Timber Lake Homeowner's Association.
Timber Lake was built in 1925, but in recent years it's been on the verge of extinction.
When its dam collapsed in 1995, homeowners rallied to build a new, concrete structure in its place. That event was just the beginning of a much longer struggle to ensure the lake's survival.
"After 1995 when the dam broke, this community recognized the need for a watershed improvement district," said Gillett.
Watershed Improvement Districts give homeowners in a designated community the ability to tax themselves for the purpose of making watershed improvements.
Earlier this week, people who live around Timber Lake voted by referendum to create only the second Watershed Improvement District in all of Virginia. The first was established by residents of Northern Virginia's Lake Barcroft in the mid-1970's.
138 residents of Timber Lake, approximately 83% of all the votes cast, chose to allow the new improvement district to levy a tax. A similar amount chose to give the district power to take on debt or issue bonds.
"The watershed improvement district affords us the ability to tax ourselves at a little bit higher rate, so that it is fair and equitable to everyone who lives and has shoreline on the lake," Gillett explained.
Money from the tax increase will be used for dredging, something homeowners say is desperately needed to eliminate the buildup of sediment. In some areas of the lake, so much sediment has washed downstream that sandbars have developed.
Dredging will cost half a million dollars. With the new tax district in place, the work is scheduled to begin in February.
Having spent nearly 25 years working toward the create of their new tax district, Gillett said the homeowners of Timber Lake are ready to offer advice to other interested groups who might see a similar arrangement as beneficial to the preservation of their own lakes.
"If you are a lake community and you are having conservation issues, get your community together and look into this process," Gillett said. "It's only going to be helpful and beneficial toward maintaining the conservation of your lake."
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