It’s one thing to live on a lake. It’s another thing to really know a lake, and Aggie Sweeney knows her lake well.
“It’s pretty special,” she says of Pike Lake, where she and her husband, Chick, have lived since summer 2020. As year-round residents, they’ve grown familiar with its seasons and cycles, from rising and falling water levels to the ebb and flow of human and wildlife activity.
Take the birds, for example. Aggie, an avid birder, has identified over 100 species visiting Pike Lake throughout the year. From their backyard, the Sweeneys can hear and watch Bald Eagles, Sandhill Cranes, Belted Kingfishers, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, Common Loons, the “duck of the week,” and many others, depending on the season.
For Aggie, the lake’s seasons have also been a source of delight. “When you think about living on a lake, you think of summer, but each season has its uniqueness and its beauty,” she says. In winter, she loves watching the lake freeze, and when it’s frozen and snowy, she cross-country skis its surface. In spring, she loves watching it all melt, and the cycle begins again.
Pike is a limited-speed lake, which makes it friendlier to wildlife and to people seeking peace and quiet. Aggie notes that residents tend to care about the natural environment. They pay attention to the lake’s ecology, and they are concerned about its health.
Deed’s Creek, which begins near Pierceton, flows into Pike Lake near Aggie’s backyard, carrying high levels of runoff, sediment, and nutrients from the surrounding land. The creek itself is rapidly filling in. The lake suffers from sediment and nutrient overload, which lead to an overabundance of algae and invasive aquatic plants, low water clarity, less oxygen, and reduced fish habitat. In fact, Pike is one of the most endangered lakes in the area.
Through her neighbors, Aggie learned about organizations, including The Watershed Foundation, working to make Pike Lake healthier. She quickly got involved. In 2021, Aggie joined the TWF board of directors. In January 2023, she will step into the role of Vice President.
A NEW OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE
Though Aggie and Chick are both Indiana natives, their careers took them west for 45 years, mostly to the Pacific Northwest. Chick was a civil engineer, and Aggie worked with nonprofits, focusing on human services. She held two executive leadership positions and later worked in nonprofit consulting, eventually becoming President & CEO, and co-owner of her firm.
When the Sweeneys retired, they moved back to Indiana to be close to extended family. Their daughter and grandson have since moved to Warsaw, and their son lives in Connecticut. In retirement, Aggie has found fresh ways to serve nonprofits whose missions matter to her. “ I love to be outside,” she says. “Being involved with environmentally and recreationally-focused organizations felt like a new opportunity when we moved here.”
As an Indiana Master Naturalist, she volunteers to monitor water quality, teaches environmental education programs, and more. She also serves on boards for The Watershed Foundation, the Tippecanoe Audubon Society, and the Kosciusko County Parks & Recreation. “It all ties together,” she adds.
Working with environmental nonprofits allows Aggie to share her passion for natural areas and to help preserve them. It also gives her the chance to learn from experts, like TWF, who understand how to care for our natural resources.
“TWF acts locally to protect water quality in our streams and lakes,” she explains. “The impact is far reaching–from here to the Gulf of Mexico and from now through many generations to come.”
Our lakes need help. Our lakes need you. You can volunteer on clean water projects, take an action pledge, attend an event, donate funds – there are so many ways to make a difference! Will you join us?