Net Zero Energy Headquarters for FL&PM

Net Zero Energy Headquarters Breaks Ground

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Lou Gerics, AIA   919 832 6303

gerics@innovativedesign.net

Johnny Foster

919 772 8548

johnny@fosterlake.com

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, September 30, 2014

Net zero energy building under construction in Garner, NC

Artist's rendering of our new building under construction near Garner, NC

Located in Garner, North Carolina, the new headquarters building for Foster Lake and Pond Management, promises to be one of the State’s few net-zero energy buildings. Designed by the Raleigh architectural firm, Innovative Design, the new facility will accommodate the offices, retail space and operations center for the growing company that manages lakes, ponds and stormwater devices for businesses, golf courses, subdivisions and developments throughout North Carolina.

A roof-integrated photovoltaic system will be implemented in the building in order to offset all of the energy demand not fulfilled through energy-efficiency, geothermal heating and cooling, daylighting, and passive solar strategies incorporated in the design.  Johnny Foster, in emphasizing his company’s focus on sustainable approaches to lake, pond and stormwater management, points out that “a high priority was also placed upon implementing bio-swales and a constructed wetland with aquatic plants in order to greatly reduce the pollutants typically associated with rainwater runoff.  We wanted to create a building that clearly shows our clients and neighbors our commitment to sustainable practices.”

Project architect, Lou Gerics with Innovative Design, stated “the real challenge was producing a net-zero energy building with numerous green design features and still getting it within budget.  It shows that you can have a great sustainable design and still respect the pocketbook.”

Innovative Design was founded in 1977 and since its inception has focused on creating energy-efficient, environmentally sensitive architecture.  Over the past 37 years our 4,755 green buildings have collectively saved our clients $139 million in energy bills, reduced their city water consumption by 295 million gallons and reduced peak utility demands by the equivalent of a 127 megawatt power plant.

For more information on Innovative Design see (www.innovativedesign.net) and for Foster Lake and Pond Management see (www.fosterlake.com).

Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration.

We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit: www.FosterLake.com.   

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Why is Brush Removal Around a Pond Shoreline Important?

Difficult to inspect stormwater pond

Before brush cutting with difficulty inspecting

Stormwater ponds are not designed to be attractive. They are designed to catch runoff and release cleaner water gradually. Some communities keep the ponds attractive to increase property values. Some communities simply want expenses to be as low as possible. Regardless of the communities’ objectives the shoreline must remain accessible, inspectable and free from muskrats or other potentially damaging nuisance animals. That requires that overgrown

Stormwater pond after brush has been cut

After brush cutting - much easier to inspect

grass, weeds and brush be routinely cut.

Stormwater devices are now required at most new developments. One of the requirements is that they must be inspected regularly. Either the inspections are done by private companies or by government officials. If tall weeds, briars and brush limit access inspection will be difficult or impossible. The owner of the stormwater device will be required to cut the brush to make the site accessible and able to be inspected. Usually, there will be a relatively short time period for the required brush cutting. That limits the ability to get competing bids and generally increases the cost of the cleanup. If mowing and cutting is neglected for too long, trees will grow. Trees are not allowed on dams or near inlet or outlet structures. Trees are expensive to remove and discard.

Look at the photos above. Can you imagine the difficulty in inspecting the shoreline in the “before” photo? You can see that it would be much easier to look for muskrat holes, erosion gullies, seepage and nuisance growth of filamentous algae or invasive weeds along the shoreline in the “after” photo. Not only is inspection much easier, there is less suitable habitat for nuisance animals. Trees are cut when they are very small and easy to manage. Invasive or undesirable plants along the shoreline can easily be controlled. Desirable shoreline plants can be left to thrive with less competition for space, light and nutrients.

Many landscape companies don’t have the proper equipment, required licenses or simply don’t want to deal with slopes, wet soil and structures associated with stormwater devices. We have added the capability to do mowing, brush cutting and shoreline repair since so much of our work involves inspecting and maintaining stormwater ponds and devices. We have found that routine maintenance is much less expensive in the long run and avoids the surprises and budget busting bills associated with “emergency” maintenance. Please contact us if you have questions or would like to be included in our Preventive Maintenance Program for any lake, pond or stormwater device.

Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration.

We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit: www.FosterLake.com.   

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Our Sediment Basin Includes Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Sediment basin with skimmer, baffles and spillway

Our sediment basin includes baffles, skimmer and covered spillway

Grading for our new building began 2 days after we unexpectedly had 7 inches of rain. We had no erosion on our site, but if the grading had begun before that rain it would be a different story. The first priority of the grading contractor after stripping and stockpiling the topsoil was the diversion swale and sediment collection basin. It was completed by the second day of grading. You can see from the photo the basin includes coir (coconut fiber) fabric baffles and a skimmer.

Our site was gently sloping and can be made level with relatively simple cutting from the high side and filling on the low side. The diversion ditch will collect all of the rain water runoff on the site and direct it to the sediment basin. The coir fabric baffles slow the water in the basin and encourages any sediment to settle to the bottom of the basin. If fine suspended sediment becomes a problem, substances called flocculants can be added to cause the fine particles to clump together so they also settle out. Polyacrylamides  (PAM) are a type of polymer that is very effective as a flocculent to clump suspended sediment particles together. They will then attach to the coarse organic fibers of the coir fabric baffles in the sediment basin.

The skimmer in the photo is also a relatively new technique to keep sediment in the basin. It is designed to float at the surface of the water collected in the basin. It drains the clearest surface water slowly through the drain pipe out of the basin. If more runoff enters the basin than the skimmer allows to drain, the basin will fill and water may temporarily flow over the spillway. The spillway is covered with plastic fabric to prevent erosion.

I remember all too well how muddy ponds, we used to manage, were when the land uphill was disturbed. Large volumes of sediment would create shallow areas prone to nuisance aquatic weed growth. The suspended sediment prevents sunlight from encouraging growth of oxygen producing phytoplankton. The fish are stressed by living in water having low dissolved oxygen made worse when their gills may be coated with silt. Natural food production suffers by the lack of sunlight and the fish can’t see available food in the murky water. Long term productivity suffers because fish eggs suffocate when coated in sediment. Believe me, I am very glad advanced techniques have been developed and are being used on my site!

Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration. We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit: www.FosterLake.com.   

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We Lost the Blueberries and Some Pecan Trees but Gained a Sediment Basin

Pecan trees removed for building construction

Pecan trees removed for new building

The construction entrance was just the beginning. A state of the art sediment basin and a diversion swale has been built. We lost my blueberry bushes that were so productive just a month ago. We also lost 5 pecan trees, but 2 of them will be resurrected in our building display area and I still have 13 remaining pecan trees. Such is progress.

I see excavation equipment frequently working on our stormwater device repairs and maintenance projects. I am still amazed at how quickly they can get a lot of work done. It was even more surprising at my own property. I thought about the time and effort I spent many times to prune the pecan trees and blueberries. The excavator bucket simply grabbed a swath of blueberry bushes 10 feet tall, pulled them straight up out of the ground, shook the dirt off the roots and slung them in a pile. After 5 or 6 swaths in about 3 to 5 minutes the blueberries were gone.

Our new building will have 2 of the pecan trees in the display area. They are just for looks, adding to the rustic decorating style. We will probably hang stuff on them. The excavator operator dug around the roots of the two most suitable trees, pushed them over, picked them up and moved them out of the way for me to cut the branches off. The other three trees were pushed over, crushed up and piled in a heap to be hauled off. That may have taken 15 or 20 minutes. I cut the branches off the good trees about 15 feet from the root ball. We cut some of the large limbs up so we could save the wood for use in smokers. I even had a neighbor stop and gather some wood to use in his smoker.

A small railroad tie retaining wall was the only other clearing that needed to be done. Most of the land being disturbed is just grass “pasture”. Once clearing is complete the attention focuses on erosion control and sediment containment. The stormwater diversion ditch (swale) and sediment pond took more time but only part of 2 days. It is complete now and I will describe its design and construction in my next article.

Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration.

We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit: www.FosterLake.com.   

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We Have a Construction Entrance!

Foster Lake & Pond Management building grading begins

The construction entrance is where the permanent driveway will eventually be located.

It seems like it has been a very long time coming, but we have a construction entrance! Grading for our new building has begun. I bought the land for the building 7 years ago. Zoning, permitting and a sluggish economy delayed the progress. But, work has now begun!

The building itself is exciting to me. The architect is Innovative Design, who has designed 4,755 energy-efficient buildings over the past 36 years. Boasting “Net Zero Energy Consumption”, the building utilizes the following “green” features:

  • Energy efficient building shell
  • Daylighting and passive solar
  • Geothermal heat pumps
  • Efficient lighting and controls
  • Rainwater reuse in fish tanks and pond
  • Low-flow water fixtures
  • Constructed wetland and bio-swales
  • Photovoltaics (PV)

The new building will be about 6,400 square feet and include:

  • Retail space
  • Offices
  • Conference room
  • Live fish holding and distribution area
  • Workshop
  • Storage & support

My hope is the building and surrounding site will become an educational tool and demonstration facility for efficient, sustainable stormwater management. An existing pond on the site allows us to demonstrate the variety of products we sell, from fountains to docks to shoreline plants. The additional space will increase our productivity and comfort while allowing us to grow and expand our offerings.

Solar features include 18 – 20 kilowatts of photovoltaic collectors mounted on the roof. These should provide all of the electricity we need. Daylighting, passive solar design and extremely energy efficient fixtures reduce energy requirements. We honestly expect net – zero energy consumption.

I’ve never built a commercial building before. There are sure to be issues, surprises, disappointments and excitement. Follow the construction with all of its trials and tribulations at “Fosterlake” on Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and Instagram.

Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration.

We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit: www.FosterLake.com.   

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Iron Stains from Pond Water Irrigation

This pond functions to manage stormwater and irrigate landscape

Proper pump intake placement and aeration can help prevent stains from irrigation water.

I’ve been asked for information about removing iron from your pond water being used for irrigation. We have dealt with this problem many times during our 31 years in business. Rust from oxidized iron in irrigation water can stain driveways, sidewalks, fences and even ornamental plants. Lakes and ponds can be very good irrigation water sources. But, just like all other water supply sources, problems can occur that need solutions.

It is important to know that high iron is not the only potential cause for yellow, brown, orange or red stains from irrigation water. Planktonic algae and tannin pigments from decaying leaves and pine straw are other potential sources for the discoloration. I will assume that your problem is indeed high iron content.

Iron can occur in several different forms in your pond. The depth, chemistry and dissolved oxygen content of the water determine the form of your iron. There are also certain bacteria in water that may affect the form and availability of iron in your water. Acidic water (pH less than 7) favors the dissolved (ferrous) form. The precipitate (ferric) form is rust because the iron is oxidized by being exposed to oxygen. Rust will usually settle to the pond bottom but may change back to the soluble form if the bottom water is oxygen deficient. Agricultural lime can be added, usually 2 – 3 tons per acre of pond surface, if acidic water is an issue.

Irrigation problems with water high in iron are common and several solutions are relatively simple and inexpensive. In my experience simply aerating and circulating the water along with properly positioning the irrigation pump intake solves the vast majority of the problems. If that is not sufficient, the solution to your problem will require determining the form of iron causing your problems. Analysis of a properly collected water sample can help determine the most cost effective solution, usually some sort of filtration.

One of the easiest solutions is having the irrigation pump intake at the proper depth in the water. The pump intake should be between 18 and 30 inches from the pond water surface. Intakes too close to the pond bottom can suck up iron rich sediment that has settled to the bottom. Intakes too close to the surface can suck up iron fixing bacteria and more of the oxidized form of iron that has not settled to the bottom. The depth of the pump intake can be set by suspending the intake below a float or building a rack or stand for the intake. We usually suspend the intake below a float. Then, it is easy to lift the float and clean the intake if it becomes clogged.

Most of the iron in problem ponds I have seen can be precipitated and caused to sink to the bottom of the pond if the pond is aerated and circulated. Diffused air systems are usually very efficient and cost-effective for aerating and circulating ponds. Diffused air systems use a small compressor, located on the pond shoreline, to push air through weighted tubing to diffusers installed on the pond bottom. The diffusers produce millions of small bubbles with the compressed air. The bubbles each enlarge as they rise towards the pond water surface (due to declining pressure) and the column of bubbles spreads out significantly as it rises through the water column. The resulting column of bubbles transfer some oxygen to the surrounding water and, more importantly, pulls a very large volume of water from the pond bottom to the surface. At the surface the water is exposed to air as it spreads out in all directions from the “boil” of bubbles.

The iron in the water is oxidized by the oxygen in the bubbles and atmospheric air at the surface. The water is circulated throughout the water column. Diffusers in deeper water are more efficient because they circulate greater volumes of water. Much of the oxidized iron will form a precipitate (particles of rust) and settle to the bottom of the pond. If the pump intake is suspended off the bottom of the pond the “rust” will not be pumped into the irrigation system. The size of the compressor needed will be determined by the number of diffusers needed. The number of diffusers will be determined by the depth and the shape of the pond. We are experts at designing these systems and most customers are surprised at the low cost for purchasing and operating the systems.

Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration.

We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit: www.FosterLake.com.

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Pond Weed Control by Mechanical Harvesting: Advantages and Disadvantages

Mechanical weed control

Mechanical weed removal can require a lot of labor

Although it is often exhausting, messy and frustrating, mechanical harvesting of aquatic weeds and algae has its place in lake, pond and stormwater device management. Mechanical harvesting can range from dipping filamentous algae with a net to large barges equipped with cutters, conveyors and storage hoppers. Various weed rakes and an assortment of handheld or small boat mounted cutters are also available. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages I’ve noticed over the past 30 years.

Advantages

  • Removes nutrients from system – Plant biomass that otherwise would decompose and release nutrients fueling more weed growth is removed from the ecosystem.
  • Inexpensive equipment – Most nets, rakes and small cutters are inexpensive and require little expertise. They also do not require a license or permit.
  • Selectivity – Invasive, aggressive or nuisance plants can be removed while desirable plants are undisturbed.
  • Safety – Very little personal protective equipment is necessary. No chemical toxicity issues are encountered. There are no storage or spill problems. There is no danger of damaging desirable plants or lawn areas with spray drift.
  • Simplicity – You do not need to calculate pond water volume, determine the proper spray mix surfactants, know which plants are susceptible or know the suitable environmental restrictions.
  • Immediate gratification – Once the nuisance vegetation is removed, the pond is more attractive immediately.
  • Produces mulch or compost – Harvested vegetation can be a good source of mulch for gardens or plant beds and can easily be composted for slow release nutrient availability in gardens.
  • Exercise – Cutting and dipping the vegetation, piling it on the shore and picking it up for disposal can be strenuous exercise working the entire body.

Disadvantages

  • Hard work – Aquatic plants are heavy and removal often involves a lot of leaning over, lifting, pulling, wading and reaching. The weather is often hot and humid. The removed vegetation requires hauling to a disposal site. The process is very labor intensive.
  • Frustrating – Filamentous algae may return within a week or two and aquatic plants mechanically harvested often return or regrow very quickly. Plant fragments may actually float to new areas and regenerate.
  • Disposal required – Harvested plants must usually be piled on shore to drain and then be hauled off to a disposal site. Piles of vegetation left on shore will stink, kill grass underneath and look bad.
  • Shoreline access may be limited – Most small scale mechanical harvesting is done from the shoreline or wading in shallow water. Underwater obstructions such as logs, dense vegetation, fish habitat or even fish nests you don’t want to disturb may exist. Shoreline brush, briars and trees may limit access. Removal of plants and hauling to a disposal area is very difficult from a small boat.
  • Labor cost is very high – Depending upon whether you consider it work or recreation, the cost of labor may be excessive. Hired labor for significant vegetation removal jobs can be many times greater than control with aquatic herbicides.

Effective (especially cost effective) aquatic vegetation management must consider biological, chemical, cultural and mechanical control methods. Most lake, pond and stormwater device owners don’t know enough about the chemical, biological and cultural management techniques. Mechanical control with dip nets, rakes and cutters may be the only technique available to them. We use mechanical removal as one tool in our vegetation management arsenal. Contact us if you want to know when it is appropriate and learn about your other options.

 

Foster Lake & Pond Management provides the full range of lake, pond and stormwater BMP services and products. These include: construction, repairs, maintenance, certified inspections, fish stocking, fisheries management, lake mapping, vegetation management, docks, fountains and aeration.

We have provided aquatic and stormwater solutions to our North Carolina customers for 30 years. Call us at: 919-772-8548 or visit: www.FosterLake.com.   

 

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Property Managers Shouldn’t Limit Tools Available to Lake and Pond Managers

Lake full of nuisance vegetation

Don't limit tools available to experienced professionals wanting to add value to property.

Property managers are extremely important to Foster Lake & Pond Management. Most of our business comes from them. Personally, I couldn’t do the work. They only hear complaints and often the people complaining have self-serving objectives that conflict with whatever is good for the group. Furthermore, property managers must be at least somewhat knowledgeable about an enormous number of diverse subjects.

Recently we had an instance where a property manager asked us to quote some work based on a request from a homeowners’ association. They wanted us to control nuisance vegetation in a stormwater pond system. The problem was they wanted the quote limited to applying one aquatic herbicide in two applications one month apart. I was able to explain that limiting our options and not considering our expertise developed over 30 years of experience was not in their best interests. Here is a portion of my explanation. I hope it resonates with other property managers.

I would like to reply to your request in detail because you have paid for and deserve our professional opinion and expertise. Please let me explain why I would not recommend that strategy. Limiting the tool choice for managing aquatic vegetation to just one chemical is not wise, both from an environmental or cost perspective. Furthermore, two treatments with that chemical will provide very inconsistent vegetation management. Your property owners would not be satisfied.

The desired chemical is a contact herbicide that simply burns back any vegetation it contacts. It may not kill the roots or entire plant. The plants will return. The plants may easily spread, too. You will have no choice but continual treatments. That chemical kills any plant surface it touches, being very non-selective. That means beneficial vegetation is damaged just like nuisance vegetation. That chemical is relatively expensive and would certainly not be cost-effective for controlling filamentous algae (for example). Other chemicals and other formulations can be much more effective long-term. Our strategy is to study and know what products and techniques will be most cost-effective over the long term. An example would be granular products that sink and contacts susceptible plants deep in the water column. Much less chemical can be used. Many are also much less expensive to purchase and apply than the chemical you requested.

We know from over 30 years of experience managing lakes in North Carolina that the most effective approach is to utilize all of the available tools: chemical, biological and mechanical vegetation management. Sterile grass carp are often the most effective tool for long-term cost effectiveness. Chemical treatments alone are affected by water depth, temperature, clarity, hardness, nutrient levels, amount of rainfall, amount of sunlight and a multitude of other factors. Nuisance plant species grow at different rates, too. Limiting management to two applications means some species won’t be affected at all and some species will reach nuisance levels before being treated.

Aquatic vegetation management is complex and over simplification does cause harm (both in terms of ineffectiveness and wasted money). We believe the lack of an integrated management strategy in the past has increased your vegetation problems. If the beneficial plants were allowed to survive and the nuisance plants were controlled more consistently, we are convinced the lakes would be healthier and the residents would be more satisfied.

Your lakes are valuable amenities for your property owners. Your “one chemical only management” strategy ignores all of the other lake management factors that will maintain the value. Fisheries, aesthetics, water quality maintenance, wildlife habitat, erosion and sedimentation will be ignored. Knowing how those conditions are developing will allow corrections to be made before they become expensive problems. Property values benefit with consistent maintenance and knowledgeable management.

We understand your obligation and appreciate your commitment to keep costs as low as possible for your property owners. We also know from our vast experience that lakes (just like landscaping except more so) must receive comprehensive monitoring, regular maintenance and timely repairs or their value diminishes. We know that simply applying that chemical twice per year would not satisfy your property owners, particularly over time. That would cause our reputation to be damaged. We cannot survive unless we are competitive in cost and we know we provide the best service for the cost in North Carolina. Anyone in our company will be happy to discuss this in whatever detail you want whenever you want. We are making these comments because we care about the health of your lakes, the satisfaction of your property owners and our relationship with you and your company. Please let us know if there is anything we can do better!

Fortunately, the property manager involved agreed with the explanation and was able to convince the homeowners’ group to reconsider. I’m convinced the lakes will benefit long-term for little or no additional cost. Please be careful when limiting the options of experienced professionals who sincerely want to provide value and satisfy customers.

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Don’t Let Your Fountains Get Damaged During Freezing Weather

Ice forming around an operating fountain

Don't let the water freeze around the fountain propeller!

Be sure to either leave your fountain running 24 hours per day or don’t let it run at all until the weather moderates. This ridiculously cold weather will cause most lakes, ponds and stormwater devices in North Carolina to freeze over solidly. A fountain will usually keep the water around it from freezing while the fountain is running. However, when the fountain timer cuts the fountain off (maybe late at night), the water surface will freeze. The propeller that discharges the water through the spray nozzle is just below the water surface. If the lake surface freezes around the propeller, the propeller cannot spin when the timer cuts the motor on in the morning. If the motor is running and the propeller cannot spin, the motor could be seriously damaged.

Forecasters are predicting the coldest weather in 20 years. We usually don’t have to take freezing water precautions with fountains in North Carolina. However, this is an exception. Further north most fountains are removed during the winter because of issues with freezing. We usually don’t have frozen water surfaces for more than just a few days and the ice is rarely thick enough to cause problems. This will probably be different.

Diffused air (bubbler) systems are different and will not be damaged. Nevertheless, they do not usually need to be operated during the winter and most property owners cut them off during the winter.

Either cut your fountain off completely until the ice is gone or let the fountain run constantly so the ice will not interfere with the spinning propeller. Leaving it on may produce spectacular ice formations, but cutting it off will be safer.

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I Am So Very Thankful!

For God’s blessings that make everything else that I’m thankful for possible.

For loved ones that are truly good, well-adjusted people.

For Foster Lake & Pond Management team members who are honest, committed, hard-working people that act and feel like family.

For my many friends, both extremely close and casual, who truly care and provide so many opportunities for real fun.

For property managers who are key partners in our business and perform masterfully, but never hear anything but complaints.

For private recreational lake and pond owners who have a vision and passion for their property and create so many fun opportunities for our company.

For living near Garner, NC an authentic All-American City with a robust economy, stimulating weather changes, abundant natural resources and genuine southern hospitality.

For the architectural firm, Innovative Designs, helping to create a cost-effective sustainable business operations center for our company on my own land.

For holidays like Thanksgiving that keep us from thinking about government ineffectiveness.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

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