The Association owns the Lake itself and various parcels of land around the lake. We are not a homeowner's association.
The lands around Yankee Lake were owned by The Yankee Lake Company in the early 1900s. Over a few decades, the land was subdivided. Legally, it is only those property owners with deeded lake rights stretching back to the original subdivision of their land who may access the lake. Furthermore, the deeds of those without lakefront property must also specify the Right of Way to be used in accessing the lake. Rights to access the lake cannot be legally granted to an owner whose deed does not show such lake rights.
The Yankee Lake Preservation Association, Inc. (YLPA) is the owner of the actual lake, the dam, and several parcels and Rights of Way scattered around the lake. (By law, New York State owns the actual water in the bodies of water all across the State. The Association technically only owns the land that the water is contained by.) It is operated by a volunteer Board of Directors consisting of up to 15 individuals, approved by the dues-paying members of the Association. The YLPA is not a Homeowner’s Association (HOA). There are no “Covenants and Restrictions” that dictate to owners around the lake what they can and cannot do with their property. Owners are, however, bound by the zoning and other laws in force by the Town of Mamakating, Sullivan County, and the State of New York. (Please see our “Local Laws and Ordinances” page on this site that summarizes some of the more relevant of these statutes.)
The YLPA is not the enforcer of local law. If someone is not maintaining their camp, or their tree is threatening your house, or their dog is running amok, or their fireworks are keeping you awake until midnight… Those are not areas that we can help you with. If you have a beef with your neighbor, you either need to work it out between yourselves, or you need to take it to the civil authorities for adjudication. It is not something the YLPA can or will help you with. Don’t even ask.
As the owner of the lake and the dam, the YLPA has an obligation to enforce YLPA-imposed Rules and Regulations to keep the waters clean. Hence, users of the lake are prohibited from using gasoline powered engines of any sort, no matter how small. Use of other chemicals is also prohibited: You are not allowed to use soap or shampoo in the lake, clean paint brushes in the lake, or allow construction run-off into the lake. The lake bottom at your shoreline is not allowed to be disturbed without permits/permission of the Department of Environmental Conservation (they own the water, remember), the Town of Mamakating, and the YLPA Board of Directors. Thus, no sand or gravel is to be added to your shore to make a beach or boat slip. (They can infect the lake with invasive plant species, like phragmites.) Permits/permissions are required before putting in any sort of dock that touches the lake bottom. These requirements are not put in place to be onerous, but to protect the lake for the long-term. That is in your best interest (keeps property values up), and in the interest of future generations.
Vegetation is encouraged at the lake shore (it filters run-off before entering the lake and reduces shoreline erosion), but we strongly discourage fertilizers or phosphorous-containing pesticides. These, plus poorly maintained septic systems, add nutrients to the water and encourage the growth of weeds and surface vegetation.
Obviously, we are also obligated to keep the dam well-maintained, in good repair, and regularly inspected by New York State authorities. The outlet from our dam feeds water into the Pine Kill stream. There are lots of residences along the Pine Kill that might be affected by a breach of our dam. Because of that, our dam is designated a “Class C” high hazard dam. This designation is not because our dam is unsafe, but because there are people downstream of the dam who could be harmed if there was a sudden release of water from our dam. All this drives legal liability for us, as well as increased State scrutiny of engineering aspects of our dam. We publish an Emergency Action Plan, approved by local and State authorities, that describes how we would rapidly bring water levels down in case of emergency, and coordinated responses in the case of a breach of our dam.
The bottom line is that all of this costs money. We need those with lake rights to pay their dues to the Association. Just pay your fair share. Our Board is diligent in keeping costs down. Since 2012, dues are mandatory for new property owners. The dues amount has not changed since 2012. Your dues pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the dam, the liability insurance that we must carry in the case of a breach of our dam, and property tax costs, building and property maintenance costs, utility and communication costs. Whether you use the lake or not, our work keeps your property valuations from dropping, keeps the dam from breaching, and keeps the lake environment and waters clean and healthy. We also plan and execute a calendar of seasonal events, such as picnics, fishing tournaments, teen nights, nature education programs, and so forth.
It is informative to consider what would happen if we could no longer afford to maintain the dam. This is not far-fetched. It actually happened when the previous owner of Yankee Lake could not pay the property taxes twenty-plus years ago. The County took possession of the lake, and was considering opening the lake to the public. Either that, or the County would drain the lake, to eliminate the cost to the public of recurring dam maintenance expenses. Fortunately, through heroic efforts by a very few of the faithful members of the Yankee Lake community, we were able to pay the back-taxes and re-claim ownership of the lake.
So, what would happen to your property values if the lake were drained? If it went from a pristine 410-acre mountain lake, to a mud-pit with smelly dead fish and vegetation, and eventually a barren plain of baked mud 2 miles wide. What would your property values be like then? Please do your fair share and pay your annual dues. We are all in this together.