They wanted Ulstad Ave. to have Dutch touch

Published 7:30 am Friday, January 8, 2010

If one of the proposals suggested back in 1957 by a local citizens’ committee had become a reality, we might now have the following scenario for traveling across the west end of Albert Lea Lake.

At the present time the south end of Ulstad Avenue is based on the intersection with Southeast Marshall Street. Yet, if one of this committee’s suggestions had been accepted, this avenue would have gone further south across Eberhart Park, the railroad tracks and Blazing Star Trail area and continue out onto the former lake bed.

At this point the committee’s suggested extension of Ulstad Avenue is on what can be called a glorified dike. Going south on this roadway, the lake is on the left and a large area of new land is on the right side. And here’s where the Dutch touch comment is justified.

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About half way across this proposed avenue is a raised roadbed, like a small overpass, for a bridge. Maybe this detail wasn’t mentioned in the January 1957 letter to the Albert Lea City Council, but any roadway across this end of the lake just had to have a bridge. The reason for the bridge is for the channel or Shell Rock River. Also, a bridge at this location had to have enough clearance for boats.

As a result of the bridge and channel or river, this filled in portion of the lake would be divided into two parts. We’ll come back to this new land detail a few paragraphs later.

What was suggested or implied as the south end of the mythical extension of Ulstad Avenue was a connection with South Shore Drive (County Road 19) about three blocks to the east of Frank Hall Drive.

Now, where did all the soil for the roadway (or dike) and the two reclaimed portions of the west end of Albert Lea Lake come from? The answer was provided by the committee with their suggestion to dredge a good portion of the rest of the lake to a much greater depth.

As mentioned earlier, the newly created land on the west side of the proposed roadway was divided into two sections by the channel or Shell Rock River. The portion on the north side “would be available to Wilson & Co. for expansion and also to Jobs Building for new commercial sites,” according to the committee. The south side could become a new residential area,

Incidentally, Wilson & Co. right at that time was not a part of Albert Lea, but we digress.

There was a prediction made in this letter 53 years ago, which needs some commentary and updating. This overly confident guess into the future said, “Sooner or later, all the area around the lake will be a part of the City of Albert Lea.” That just hasn’t happened. Albert Lea would have to really grow and expand to the east and southeast to even make this a remote reality.

As I looked over the news article from the Jan. 15, 1957, issue of the Tribune recently found by local historical researcher Kevin Savick, another question came to mind. Why did this committee for lake improvement led by co-chairman William J. Larson even present their proposals and letter to the Albert Lea City Council? As I mentioned in the last column, all the City Council ever did was “receive and file” the letter. Two other more logical groups to even consider any future action regarding this lake would have been the township and county boards. And somewhere along the way, a state or federal department or two or even more also gets involved with the waters and bottoms of the county’s lakes.

For some odd reason, Larson and his committee thought the “past undesirable character of Albert Lea Lake” could be changed with a new name. Their proposal to use the Scandinavian name of Lake Elissa (pronounced Eleesa) wouldn’t really help to clear up or clean up this murky lake or make it a recreational center or tourist destination.

This committee’s comment about the name Elissa being the only one like it in the nation may be true. Then again, the same comment can be made for the name Albert Lea.

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.