Honored club had impact on El Paso and beyond
Eau Galle-Rush River Sportsmen’s Club members gathered at the handicapped fishing spot near El Paso recently. From left to right in the front are: Arby Linder, Lin Linder, Bill Hanson, Barb Hanson, Harold Fosmo Jr., Connie Fosmo, Kathy Linder, Gary Linder, Howard Kiefer and Beverly Kiefer. In the back are: Carol Gilbertson, Gary Gilbertson, Jeanette Schade, Warren Schade, Mary Kiefer, Scott Kiefer, Bruce Place, Ross Christopherson and Audrey Kiefer. (Herald photo by Bill Kirk)
Honored club had impact on El Paso and beyond
By Bill Kirk
EL PASO—What makes the great outdoors so great?
People who care would be an answer from El Paso’s officials. That’s one reason why members of the Eau Galle-Rush River Sportsmen’s Club have been named honorary citizens for the El Paso Days celebration this Friday through Sunday.From its beginnings with just 10 members, the club has grown to nearly 100 more, according to leaders including Warren Schade, Scott Kiefer, Bruce Place (the club’s first president), Arby Linder (its first treasurer) and Lin Linder. Their impact on conservation is evident throughout the El Paso area as well as much of Pierce County and outside the county’s borders.One of the first projects the leaders remembered was digging out a spring at the Leroy Bamman property north of Martell. Farm runoff threatened the spring; volunteer workers from the club got the assistance of a backhoe.Ed Place lined up the equipment, Schade said. He recalled brook trout were found at the site.“As sportsmen, we saw things that needed to be done,” he said to explain how the club was formed.Tree planting was an ongoing effort, with the Gary Linders, the Torkelsons and Wally Mehlberg all early recipients of club members’ labor. Most of the trees planted have been spruce, ordered from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).“Ervin Larson drove tractor, pulling a tree planter we got from the county,” Kiefer said.When a new DNR fisheries manager arrived in this region, the organization got going on stream improvements. Scott Stewart had studied lunker structures and highly promoted them. The first one the group installed was at Bloomer Palmquist’s land. The job also included riprapping to stop erosion.The Town of El Paso paid some of the cost and Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services paid some, too.“Otherwise, the electric lines would have gone down,” Schade said.The membership, who had once trapped suckers out of the Eau Galle River, planted a considerable amount of trout in the Rush River. Most were from the state hatchery at St. Croix Falls. Area landowners cooperated, Trout Unlimited of Hudson helped, and there was a lot of paperwork and permits to handle.The river was considered a Class 3 stream at the time, Arby Linder said. Several in the club went to Lewis and bought rainbow fries, which were kept in four-to-five-gallon pails, into which air was pumped.“You couldn’t even catch trout on the Rush back then,” Linder said, adding DNR officials didn’t believe at the time there would be successful results.But club members have long since quit stocking the river, now a Class 1 stream.“It’s the first one ever to go from Class 3 to Class 1,” he said.A club highlight of the last four years has been a handicapped fishing spot created down the road from Fishermen’s Rest at El Paso. Pete Koch, who was single when he died, told a niece and nephews to give his approximately 148-and-a-half acre parcel in the vicinity to an organization which would preserve it after he was gone.Now-retired Pierce County Highway Commissioner Ross Christopherson of the club learned about the request through a county lease on a quarry which was involved and up for reclamation. Christopherson made Koch’s family aware of the sportsmen’s club here and it was in the running to get the land, along with much bigger Safari and Trout Unlimited groups in the Twin Cities. The local membership wrote letters on the potential for a handicapped fishing development, besides working with an engineer.The family eventually showed up at a club meeting, sealing the deal for the Eau Galle-Rush River outfit to be given the land.“You hear about it wherever you go,” said Kiefer, referring to the handicapped fishing place. It’s used for many activities, ranging from fishing to ATV riding to horseback riding.Club members usually meet the first Wednesday of the month at the Martell Town Hall, grateful the town makes that facility available to them.“At the start, we were told not to have a clubhouse because it sucks money away from other projects, so we didn’t build one,” Schade said.When the members decided to ask their wives to attend meetings, they began getting a lot more done, he said. They now have an annual picnic and Christmas party in addition to their conservation projects.Club leaders aren’t certain exactly what their role in this weekend’s El Paso Days celebration is to be.“We don’t even know what we’re going to ride on yet,” Kiefer said about an expected appearance in Sunday’s parade.