Willmar Lake and Foot Lake to get new boat launch docks, built by inmates

The City of Willmar will be purchasing two new boat launch docks for Willmar Lake and Foot Lake from MINNCOR Industries. The docks will be built by incarcerated people in correctional facilities as a way to teach job-training skills.

Fishermen launch a boat on Foot Lake in Willmar in May 2019.
The city of Willmar is purchasing two new docks for the boat launches at Foot and Willmar lakes. The purchases are replacing docks that literally fell to pieces after they were pulled from the water last fall. The new docks will be built by inmates in state correctional facilities as part of MINNCOR Industries. Ron Balbach, left, and Loren Wallentine prepare their boat for the fishing opener on Foot Lake in Willmar in early May 2019.
Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — When Foot Lake and Willmar Lake welcome back boats and boaters this spring, after the ice melts, there will be new boat docks to greet them.

Normally, the city of Willmar puts out three docks at the public boat launches each spring, two in Foot Lake and one in Willmar Lake. Every fall, those docks are pulled back out of the water and then taken to the Willmar Public Works garage for annual maintenance. Sadly, only one dock made it to the garage this past fall.

"Two of them did not make the trip, they were rusted out so bad," said Gary Manzer, interim director of Willmar Public Works. "One completely collapsed on the road."

Manzer said his department has been working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for a while trying to find available funding that could help the city replace those docks. However, with time running out, Manzer approached the Willmar City Council on Monday to ask if money from the capital improvement program could be reappropriated to pay for two new docks.

The funds, $15,400, were originally to be used to continue painting the traffic signal poles across the city. With the City Council's unanimous approval given Monday, it will now be used for the docks.


The docks will be purchased from MINNCOR Industries , a manufacturing business run by the Minnesota Department of Corrections . Incarcerated people at state correctional facilities build various products — from furniture to clothes to boat docks. Established in 1994, MINNCOR has been financially self-sufficient since 2003 and is not funded with taxes. The program provides employment for inmates, while also teaching valuable life skills and aiding in their transition back into the community when their sentence has been served.

Even with the reduction in funding, Manzer said Public Works will continue to paint signal poles; the crews just might not be able to do as many this year as planned. Also, MnDOT plans to complete improvements on U.S. Highway 12 through Willmar and those traffic signals will probably be replaced anyway during that project, Manzer said.

More Willmar City Council coverage:
In split 5-2 votes, Willmar City Council approved accepting a grant to construct an outdoor fitness court and applying for an Age-Friendly Minnesota Community grant.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email or direct 320-214-4373.

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