It was once the sparkling gateway to Oak Bluffs. The sandy shores and clear waters of Sunset Lake made it an attraction in its own right. In the summer there were paddle boats for rent and crabbing was abundant.

That picture is mostly lost to memory now, and through most of the 20th century the lake declined. Today it’s known mostly as the place where the town floats a handsome lighted Christmas tree every December.

Donna Hayes, president of Friends and Neighbors of Sunset Lake. — Mark Lovewell

But for the past seven years, an ambitious group of neighbors who live near Sunset Lake have been working diligently to restore the lake to its former natural beauty.

Formed in 2010, the Friends and Neighbors of Sunset Lake (FANS) faced a daunting task. Invasive species, including phragmites and Russian olive, have colonized the lake’s shores. The marshy area and nearby streets are prone to flooding. The slope of the hill below Greenleaf avenue is eroding. The brackish lake is rich in nitrogen from limited tidal exchange and septic runoff.

Today progress has been made. Using Community Preservation Act funding from the town, the friends of the lake hired the Horsley Witten Group, environmental consultants based in Sandwich, to complete a wetlands delineation and plant assessment. A management plan was written and work began to restore portions of the shoreline.

Long-range plan calls for total restoration with walking paths, stormwater retention and dog pickup stations.

For group leaders Donna Hayes and Jaye Shelby, it was a crash course in town government. “Donna and I have been to a lot of meetings,” Ms. Shelby said. They listed a few: the parks department, shellfish department, conservation commission historical commission and the Oak Bluffs selectmen.

Last fall the group secured a second small CPA grant to help with permitting fees and soil sampling costs — all laying the groundwork for an extensive future rehabilitation effort.

The friends group envisions a multi-phase restoration that could cost millions and take years to complete.

The town would need to approve the plans and the group still must secure funding.

But the friends of the lake are determined. “We’re in it for the long haul,” Ms. Hayes said.

One priority is to address flooding in the area by creating a stormwater garden. Native species plantings and a walking path are also priorities, along with slope stabilization. Ms. Hayes hopes that work could begin by October 2018.

Hidden jewel at the entrance to Oak Bluffs. — Mark Lovewell

Oak Bluffs selectman Gail Barmakian praised the community initiative as a good example of a public-private partnership. Amy Billings, chairman of the Oak Bluffs parks department, agreed. “Basically the Friends of Sunset Lake are the best thing that ever happened to that area,” she said.

“It’s our home, that’s why we do it,” Ms. Hayes said. “We always knew it was going to take a long time to do what we want to do.”

Originally part of Squash Meadow Pond, Sunset Lake has a former long history as a saltwater estuary. When a causeway was built that eventually became Lake avenue, it split the pond, forming Lake Anthony (today the Oak Bluffs harbor) and Sunset Lake.

The friends group, which now includes about 50 people, has a future vision for seeding the lake with shellfish, installing dog pick-up stations, creating a walking path that leads to the Arts District and bringing back the swans that once swam there.

But that is the long view. In the short term, they’re focused on incremental progress and on keeping the area clean by picking up trash and discouraging the public from feeding the wildlife.

Each year they host a cleanup day in August where they routinely collect 40 to 50 bags of trash. Ms. Shelby keeps this going all year round. “It’s constant,” she said.

“Every day we walk the dogs around, and every day, winter, summer, fall, or spring, we go up to the top and my heart leaps at how beautiful it is.”