While federal officials await permits and surveys, members of Lake Helen’s citizen-run Committee to Save Lake Helen Lake took matters into their own hands.

So far, the group has managed to kill off the invasive species of hydrilla that infested the lake, and to remove cubic tons of debris, with the help of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

They also secured $43,500 in federal funding from an appropriations bill — but permits must be pulled and surveys completed before that money can be spent to remove a land bridge that is impeding the flow of the lake.

With comparatively meager funds from dues, T-shirt sales, and donations, the Committee to Save Lake Helen Lake purchased around 1,000 native aquatic plants for $560.

Then, committee members and other volunteers spent Saturday, Sept. 28, wading into the endeavor.

Armed with shovels and provided with refreshments by nearby homeowners, a motley crew of Lake Helenites planted all four different types of native aquatic plants in just three hours.

Pickerelweed, yellow canna, arrowhead and spikerush plants now dot the shores of the once-unusable lake.

With the water clear, and fall plants planted, the committee plans to host the first-ever Lake Helen Lake festival Saturday, Feb. 15.