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Making fishing safer

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Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- Three popular -- and dangerous -- shore fishing spots in Kandiyohi County will be made safer and more accessible to anglers this summer.

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Construction of floating docks on Foot Lake and Games Lake and a fishing bridge on Green Lake will get people off the edge of narrow roads where vehicles zip inches away from tackle boxes, adults reeling in lunkers and excited kids eager to wet their lines.

"The kids just drop their bikes and fish from the shoulder of the road," said Greg Soupir, from the Department of Natural Resources office in Spicer, about the Games Lake fishing spot.

Located right on County Road 5 and close to County Park 7, Shakopee Creek flows out of Games Lake and into Swan Lake through a culvert under a narrow, curving stretch of road.

On just about any given day, someone will be fishing there, perched on the edge of road. Because there's good fishing on both ends of the outlet, people cross back and forth on the road -- sometimes without looking to see if there's a vehicle coming down the road at 55 mph.

"It's a bad situation," said Soupir.

Mel Odens, Willmar city engineer, has the same thoughts about an area of Foot Lake on County Road 41, commonly known as the "radio station road." The water flows from one side of the street to the other through culverts.

It's a great place to shore fish right in town.

But with new housing developments and Ridgewater College there, the traffic counts on that road are very high.

"People stand almost up to the driving lane and fish, and normally there's little kids involved," said Odens. He's seen anglers backing up onto the road when they're bringing in a fish and coming within a foot or two of cars going 40 miles per hour.

"We've been fortunate there's never been an incident there," said Odens. "But there could be."

The same is true on the east side of Green Lake on the bridge that separates Green Lake from Calhoun Lake.

"There's been 'no fishing' signs there for years," said Soupir.

It hasn't worked.

The bridge has traditionally been full of anglers, making it tricky for motorists to maneuver through a lineup of fishing gear and flying lines.

Options for making all three spots safer have been in the works for several years. Good planning, lucky timing for funding and cooperation between local government entities came together this year, when all three projects will be completed.

On Foot Lake, the city, county and DNR are cost-sharing the project. It will include installation of two, 12-by-20-foot floating fishing platforms that will be placed by the culverts and joined by a gangway. Installation could begin this week.

Soupir said the local DNR office was able to access leftover state money from 2003 to help fund the $25,000 fishing structures. The county will pay to riprap the shoreline to create a walking path from Rau Park, where there's a parking lot, to the structures. The city will pave the path in August.

"It's going to look nice and it'll be functional," said Odens. "I think it'll get used quite a bit. There'll be a lot of fishing opportunities."

On the County Road 5 site, Shakopee Creek has meandered a bit and deposited silt in the channel on the Games Lake side of the road, where there's a public boat access. The plan there, said Soupir, is to clean out that pool and put a floating structure there. Large boulders may also be placed on the shoreline on the other side of the channel to provide fishing spots. The docks will cost the DNR $8,000. The county will pay for the excavation fees.

The most elaborate, and expensive, project on the list is the Green Lake fishing bridge on County Road 4. Installation of the pre-fabricated bridge is expected to begin this week.

The bridge will run parallel, about 15 feet to the west of the new road bridge that was built across the channel. The 80-foot-long arch bridge will be 12 feet wide, with a flat, wider area on the top for fishing.

"It'll be a nice little area to fish," said Ray Koosman, assistant county engineer. The area includes a small parking lot and bike/walking path.

Pedestrians and bikers will also use the bridge, which is estimated to cost $50,000.

With wood railing sides and a granite rock base, the bridge will be very attractive, said Soupir. "It's going to be such a cool bridge," he said.

The DNR will pay for a floating "T" dock that will be placed on the other side of the channel for additional fishing.

Besides increasing safety, all three of the new structures will be accessible to disabled individuals.

Soupir said, however, he's already heard from one Foot Lake angler who's not happy with the plans. Soupir said the man told him that with all the improvements more people will fish there and make the competition a little tougher.

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