Groups, unnamed donor coming to rescue of bridge

Published 10:20 am Friday, May 7, 2010

After the small bridge leading to Dress Island was deemed unsafe and ultimately removed last month, three local organizations have come together to raise money for its replacement. 

In just a few short weeks, the Albert Lea Knights of Columbus, Fountain Lake Sportsmen’s Club and Albert Lea Lakes Foundation — with the help of two Albert Lea City Council members — have begun brainstorming fundraisers to outfit the island with a new bridge, new benches and possibly other amenities, too. 

The effort comes as an anonymous donor stepped forward to donate a “substantial” amount of money to the effort, 2nd Ward Councilor Larry Baker said. 

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The groups also hope to raise money to replace railings on the Blackmer footbridge, which crosses over where Wedge Creek enters Dane Bay. 

Baker said the three groups have had three meetings thus far to talk about how they can raise the rest of the money needed for the project. They initially talked about hosting a street dance but are now looking into other ventures. 

A wooden bridge for Dress Island is estimated at almost $12,000, while a steel bridge is about $18,000. 

“It’s just one of those things where we’re going to try to raise money any way we can,” Baker said. 

Fountain Lake Sportsmen’s Club President Dave Villarreal said the groups hope to have the bridge in place to Dress Island by the Fourth of July. 

Dress Island — also known as Hanson Island and Monkey Island — is a popular place to fish and for people to sit to watch Fourth of July fireworks, Villarreal said. 

The former bridge to the island, which was installed in 1976, was primarily paid for by the local Knights of Columbus.

Knights of Columbus Grand Knight Doug Whelan said the organization got involved with the project then and is involved with it again now because the bridge provides another venue for people to have access to the lake. 

He said the groups hope to have a fundraiser event finalized by next week. 

People can visit a new website made for the project at to view details about the fundraisers. 

Meanwhile, the groups are working closely with city engineers, and 5th Ward Councilor Larry Anderson, who is also a member of the Fountain Lake Sportsmen’s Club, is working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to ensure that any permits necessary are obtained for the project to become a reality. 

Donations can be mailed to Bridge Project c/o Fountain Lake Sportsmen’s Club, P.O. Box 524, Albert Lea MN 56007.