A memorial to Gerry House

During late June the sad news was broken that Gerry House had succumbed to his long battle with cancer.  No single individual I have known or heard of in a twenty years association with Hayden Lake has stood more powerfully or forcefully in protection of the lake. From his youth, through his career locally as a Forest Service planner, through his years of service to the recreational water and sewer district and up to his last days Gerry spoke out on behalf of the lake’s protection and achieved many management actions that backed up his words.

Gerry came to his stance on Hayden Lake practically hereditarily.   The small Hayden Lake community of the late 1930’s was the place into which he was born.  He spoke often of accompanying his mother as she sought petition signatures and lobbied government officials up to and including the Governor to stop the then common practice of laying septic drain fields at or below the lake’s high water mark.   During those years Gerry walked what was then the woods south of the golf course each school day from the lake near Honeysuckle Beach to Hayden Elementary.  His education and love of the outdoors led him to be a Forester and a career in the service of the Forest Service.  His career eventually led Gerry back to the area as the forest planner of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.   Gerry understood clearly that poor land management practices polluted the streams with sediment and eventually would damage the lake.   At the time the Forest Service has a long history of questionable road building and forest harvest practices.  In his capacity as planner Gerry convinced both the upper management and a number of young professional resource managers the importance of proper watershed management and restoration. Those upper managers and professional were convinced and the Forests removed excess roads and tightened up its management in watersheds.  The sediment reduction measureable in the Hayden, Mokins and Yellowbanks  watersheds, which feed the lake is a product of the inspiration of his fellow forest managers.

In those same years Gerry’s complaints about sewage management around Hayden Lake landed him on the Hayden Lake Recreational Water & Sewer District Board.  Gerry is likely best known for his 27 years of service on the Board much of that time as its chairman.  Gerry fully understood that a recreational district stood apart from others in that its primary goal was to protect the resource around which it was formed, in this case Hayden Lake.   He maintained that working vision as the initial sewage collection system was built and agreements fashioned to threat the collected waste. He fully recognized the benefits the sewer could afford the lake, but was sensitive to the fact that sewer placement was also an invitation to additional development and density which adversely affected the lake with its storm water runoff.  Gerry inspired and guided the Board to think of the lake welfare first. A few examples are the construction of the spill way after the 1996 floods to protect the sewer line that traverses the dike; the hiring of a lake manager to oversee and report on the many development activities around the lake and; the requirement that developments create an independently reviewed and approved erosion and storm water management plan as a requirement before of the District provided sewer service.  Every one of these measures protects  the lake’s welfare.

Gerry recognized as did many others that the lake needed a group of active and vocal citizens advocating for its welfare and pushing the agencies and districts to implement those actions necessary to protect and enhance the lake. Gerry helped foster the development of the Association and was ever ready to give its leaders advice or make them aware of potential threats to the lake. To my knowledge one of the last warnings he issued was on the Association’s website concerning the backlash against the county’s draft unified land use ordinances.  In early June he warned us that when lakefront and watershed owners espouse their property rights as paramount, the lake often loses. Gerry spoke from long experience.  He acted with the unquestionable moral authority of an individual who dedicated much of his life to the protection of our lake.  As a result Gerry left us a legacy in the clear waters of Hayden Lake.  It remains for the rest of us to uphold that legacy.

Geoff Harvey, President

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