History of BOLPF


The Purpose and Brief History of BOLROA/BOLPF

The purpose and goals of BOLROA/BOLPF are stated in its By-Laws. They are as follows: The goals of the Association shall be to:

  • Protect Black Oak Lake waters and shoreline for recreation
  • Protect and enhance the Black Oak Lake environment
  • Manage natural fish and wildlife habitats
  • Work to initiate and keep protective zoning ordinances consistent with private property rights
  • Promote safety

Origin of BOLROA

On August 16, 1975, Black Oak owners met at the Land O’ Lakes Town Hall to form an association. This meeting was attended by 83 people, 37 of whom donated $5 each to cover organizing expenses.

Organization Committee

The organizing committee was comprised of Ed Nagel, Mike Rudderham, Emmet Fleming, Kimball Wyman, John Caruso, Walt Bates, Carl Truss, Earl Leimbacher, Virginia Schroeder, Betty Kistler, and Bill Van Haecke.

First Meeting

The first BOLROA Annual Meeting was held on July 3, 1976 at which the following were elected to comprise the first Board of Directors.

  • Emmet Fleming – President
  • John Caruso – Vice-President
  • Virginia Schroeder – Secretary
  • Vern Vineyard – Treasurer
  • Earl Leimbacher
  • Mike Rudderham
  • Howard Lloyd
  • Chuck Bates
  • Walt Bates
  • Ed Nagel
  • Ed Hook

The very first item of business discussed at that first meeting was…..planning a PICNIC! You can tell where our priorities are. Following the setting of the time and date for that picnic the next items of concern were the unusually high lake level, possible pollution sources, and rezoning all waterfront land parcels to Single Family Residential status.

Historical Listing of BOLROA/BOLPF Presidents

A history of BOLROA/BOLPF Presidents is as follows (changes always occur at the July annual meeting.):

  • 1976-1978 – Emmet Fleming
  • 1978-1980 – Ed Hook
  • 1980-1982 – David Hoffman
  • 1982-1984 – Walt Bates
  • 1984-1986 – Leo Lang
  • 1986-1988 – Dan Kegel
  • 1988-1990 – Betty Kistler
  • 1990-1992 – Frank Ferry
  • 1992-1993 – Betty Kistler
  • 1993-1994 – Jim Bates
  • 1994-1996 – Ruth Berg
  • 1996-2000 – Stu Hunt
  • 2000-2002 – Jim Surpless
  • 2002-2004 – John Annin
  • 2004-2006 – Walt Bates
  • 2006-2007 – Sara Beedie
  • 2007-2008 – Kathy Gelb
  • 2008-2009 – Joe Beers
  • 2009-2010 – Tom Allman
  • 2010-2013 – Cherry Lommen
  • 2013-2014 – Bob Barnum
  • 2014-2018 – Jim Fleming
  • 2018-2021 – Bill Foreman
  • 2021-2022 – Chris Hook
  • 2022-2023 – Bonnie Clarke       

First BOLROA Picnic

The first owners picnic was held in August of 1977 at the home of Ginny Schroeder. At this picnic the BOLROA theme song, “BOLROA, I Call You My Own” was introduced by its composer, Chuck Bates.


Some significant successes can briefly be summed up in the words of the BOLROA/BOLPF Theme Song ……….. “you give me my solution, to zoning and pollution, bright sunny day. Now fill my lake with fishes, and answer all my wishes, my dues I’ll pay ……..”

Black Oak Lake Area Zoning

According to our now deceased long term District County Supervisor, Lowell Conrad, when the concept of zoning first came upon Vilas County in the mid 1900s it was agreed that the area needed businesses to thrive. People needed places to shop and to work while vacationers needed rentals. So, the General Business zoning designation was applied to virtually the whole county including all the land around Black Oak Lake. There were two resorts on the lake, Pine Terrace in the west bay and the Black Oak Resort next to the public beach. By the early 1970s both resorts had shut down and sold piecemeal to private parties. Simultaneously, mobile home parks and rental type complexes were popping up on other county lakes. Black Oak residents wanted to keep the lake in the completely residential status it happened to have at that time.

BOLROA was formed in 1976 (on the website under ABOUT US > DOCUMENTS read the early meeting minutes and Newsletters) with one of its primary goals being the rezoning of the land parcels that touch the lake from General Business to Single-Family Residential. The organizers of that day had a handful of objectors one of whom was Jim Lowenstine. Jim was secretly planning the Conserve School and apparently intended it to be on Black Oak Lake. He needed the General Business zoning to continue. One of his local contractors was a Land O’ Lakes Town Board member named Gary Schmidt and through him our proponents’ efforts were repeatedly delayed, rebuffed, or flat denied at the town level. As a last resort BOLROA tried to go directly to the County Board over the heads of the town. Without the Town Board’s approval their effort was doomed but at a late 1977 County Board meeting they did manage to get a 10 – 10 vote which was a denial.

In 2004 the effort was again undertaken. This time the objections were few and there were still no businesses on the lake. The whole process took 15 months, cost nearly $5,000 and involved two Town Board meetings and three County Board meetings. Finally, at their Nov 8, 2005 meeting the Vilas County Board of Supervisors voted 21 – 0 to rezone all of the land parcels that touch the lake except the Public Beach and some thin access strips owned by the Town of Land O’ Lakes. It is ironic that in this successful effort one of the key PRO votes came from the Conserve School Board! Their reasoning was that Jim Lowenstine wanted his land to remain natural. With him gone (he died in 1996) and with school headmaster Stefan Anderson advising the Conserve School Board, they signed on to our rezoning effort as a way to protect Jim’s land against possible development plans of future unknown boards.

The specifics are spelled out in the Vilas County publication “Zoning District Uses”. A simple comparison of the following two descriptions makes it clear why the rezoning effort was so important.  

Under “General Business” we read:

The General Business District is established to create areas for a wide variety of commercial purposes on relatively large lots. Examples of types of uses for which the GB District is created include, but are not limited to, automotive sales, service and repair, building supply sales, recreational equipment sales and service, and retail sales and service. Non-commercial property owners in this district should be prepared to accept inconveniences associated with mixing potentially non-compatible land uses.

Under “Single-Family Residential” we read:

The purpose of the Single- Family Residential District is to create areas for exclusively low density residential use and prohibit the intrusion of uses incompatible with the quiet and comfort of such areas.

In Single-Family zoning the only rentals allowed are those that legally existed before the zoning change and continue without a 12 month interruption at any time since the change. Also, home occupations as defined in Article XI of the Vilas County General Zoning Ordinance are allowed.

Development pressure has decimated other lakes in the area. Though we are well protected with our zoning designation we must realize that Board compositions change and variances can be granted. We must be ready to mount a strong opposition to any threat to the tranquility of Black Oak Lake.


In the summers of 1998 and 1999 the Northern Wisconsin area experienced an infestation of Forest Tent Caterpillars (FTC) of near biblical proportions. Though the Wisconsin DNR informed us that this is a regular occurrence coming approximately every 15 years, no one here has ever recalled such a thing and some of our folks are in their 90’s! In those two summers the FTCs so thoroughly stripped the leaves from the trees that the woods resembled November though it was June. They also accumulated on roadways, covering the pavement so completely that snowplows had to be used to remove them in the UP. Numerous auto and pedestrian accidents were attributed to the slick ground. They would be an inch thick on decks, railings, and tree trunks. When they died the stench was repugnant.

BOLROA, led by John and Marilyn Annin, decided that something had to be done. Consultant Dr William Kearby was retained. Dr. Kearby taught entomology at Penn State for 20 years and was involved with the WDNR in their pest control programs for another 20 years. His advice was crucial. Additionally, we retained Skyline Helicopters of Harshaw, WI to do aerial spraying. In the springs of 2000 and 2001 we sprayed the perimeter of the lake and back about 500’. The result was a kill rate of over 99%. Pre and post aerial photos showed dramatic evidence of success in the sprayed area. Given that about 200 oak trees perished after the first two years of infestation there is no doubt that our spraying program saved thousands more. This was another place for misinformation from the “experts” who told us that trees would not die.

The chemical sprayed is popularly known as BTK (Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki). The spray sits on leaves and is poisonous to caterpillars, and only caterpillars. It harms nothing else, including the lake or its inhabitants. More “experts” warned that it does kill the caterpillar that becomes the Monarch Butterfly. What this advice does not recognize is that the latter caterpillar emerges over a month later than the FTC – long after the BTK has washed off or been neutralized by the sun. The WDNR routinely sprays BTK for Gypsy Moth control over tens of thousands of acres in southern parts of the state. Though they notify the public with nothing more than a newspaper ad this does not suffice for us civilians. We were required to get individual permission from every owner and not to spray any property that refused. This was the most time consuming part. Since the permissions given were not specific as to times we believe that should this recur we could spray without getting permission again except from new owners. The total cost for one year of consulting and spraying was about $12,000.

It takes a few years for the infestation to ramp up and there are some precursors available to the trained eye. Watch for the cocoons of fine white filament they weave in late July. This is the “tent” that gives them their name. Then watch for the moths in early August. They are about thumbnail size, very light brown, and congregate densely near lights or on windows at night. These moths deposit egg masses high (this is why aerial spraying is necessary) on thin branches of poplar and oak trees in late August. These masses are small (about one-half inch diameter) black shiny ball shapes encircling the twigs. Dr. Kearby uses a rule of thumb that says that nineteen or more such masses on a nine inch diameter poplar tree predicts a major breakout the following spring. Finding such masses should dictate a call to him.

Additional information is at:


A brief scan of our ongoing projects (see Current Board and Committees) gives further insight into the benefits BOLROA/BOLPF brings to Black Oak Lake. We combat Invasive Species such as Eurasian Watermilfoil with a multi-pronged approach as we inspect boats, monitor the shoreline, and commission annual professional surveys. We participate in the DNR’s Citizen Lake Monitor System which entails taking water samples at several times of the year and sending them to DNR analysis labs in Madison to watch for any destructive trends in our water chemistry. We have established a 501 © 3 foundation for lake protection (see Preservation Foundation).  We have secured DNR “Lake Planning” grants totaling $70,000 (so far) to support professional study and monitoring of the lake and its environs. As of summer, 2022, these various endeavors have secured a total of over $100,000 in state grant money.

We publish newsletter articles training folks on all aspects of lake stewardship. And we see results. For the years 2007 thru 2021 Black Oak Lake was named the clearest of Wisconsin’s 15,000+ lakes in 11 of those 15 years! We have a program of on-water safety and education. We have succeeded in getting DNR fish plantings in addition to what would ordinarily have been done. And BOLROA facilitates many fun projects such as boat parades, dinners, and picnics.

We even have our own theme song!