A community effort

Published 2:05 pm Saturday, September 4, 2010

Riverland carpentry instructor Tom Wilker gives advice to student Jon Hagen on Wednesday at the construction site of a boathouse at Brookside Park. -- Photos by Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

The boathouse in Brookside Park will soon be completed, and the $300,000 project will be made completely from volunteer work and donated money and goods.

Community Education Director Chris Chalmers is excited about the boathouse and what it will mean for the community. He said Community Education, area schools, area businesses and volunteers have come together to make the project that will house canoes, kayaks and paddle boarding equipment. The boathouse will be available to groups interested in outdoor or environmental programs.

“When you have a great project, people just come together,” Chalmers said. “People have been donating and volunteering when they can.”

Roy Matson places steel shingles onto wooden boards on the roof of a new boathouse Wednesday at Brookside Park in Albert Lea. Home Solutions Midwest donated the steel roofing.

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One example was on Tuesday and Wednesday when students from Riverland Community College came to volunteer and hone their skills. The students are in the construction program at the college and appreciated the chance to help the community and learn new skills.

“It’s a good experience for us, and they were looking for volunteers,” Riverland Instructor Walt Alms said.

Students in construction classes usually build a house each year, but they do have some time left over. Alms said the class had some free time and always tries to do a project in the community. Helping at the boathouse gave the students experience with framing walls, prepping the roof for steel shingles and working on siding.

Chalmers is also in talks with students at Riverland in the construction electrician program and has hopes that someday the boathouse will have sustainable energy in the form of wind, solar or other renewable sources of energy.

Riverland student Rachel Knopps hands water to classmates Wednesday on the roof on a boathouse being built at Brookside Park in Albert Lea.

Other people in the community have been stopping by to help whenever they can, and Chalmers said there have been quite a few people who consistently come to help. One such community member is Greg Steil, who is retired. He likes helping out at the boathouse to keep busy and to give back to the community.

“It’s a good experience,” Steil said. “I think it’s a good benefit for the community.”

Steil also said it’s nice to see a tangible result after hard work, and because the boathouse is nearing completion he will soon see the result of his work.

Home Solutions Midwest of Albert Lea has also had a role in helping to complete the boathouse. The company donated materials and their services to help build the roof of the boathouse. Steve Fields, president and general manager, said they didn’t mind helping the students learn about construction techniques. Fields said it was nice to give back to the community and help students who could possibly be new employees someday.

“When we heard about the project we wanted to be part of it,” Fields said.

Fields also said the project will be a good addition to the community that will last a long time. Chalmers said it’s been difficult having equipment, like canoes, stored in different areas around town instead of in one central place. So far this year more than 800 people have used canoes and kayaks, and Chalmers said it will save time and money to have all the equipment in one place close to Fountain Lake.

Riverland student Kyle Nasby sizes the building wrap Wednesday while student James Kuhlers opens a staple gun so he can add staples. The class accomplished more on sunny Wednesday than it did on rainy Tuesday.

A grant was recently received from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that will be used to purchase archery equipment to be housed at the boathouse. The structure itself will be made out of timbers, from northern Minnesota’s Gunflint Trail, donated by community members Margaret Ehrhardt and Kenny Perkins.

“This project began with a vision to introduce people, especially youth, to our local environment,” said Chalmers, “and one of the most effective ways to do that is to get them out enjoying that environment.”

A grand opening celebration is planned for the boathouse on Sept. 25 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Gary Hoffman, an Albert Lea native, will speak at 10 a.m. about the book he wrote on his experience canoeing the Mississippi River with his son titled “Mighty Miss: A Mississippi River Experience.” From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. there will be free canoeing and kayaking available for anyone compliments of all the people who donated to the project. Anyone is welcome to attend this event.

A list of people and businesses who donated time, money or in-kind services for the boathouse:

Albert Lea Lakes Foundation, Freeborn County Communities Foundation, Albert Lea Audubon Society, Innovance, Maple Island Park Association, Al Larson, Larry Wangen, Northcott Wood Turning, Ryan Palmer, Home Solutions, Richards Wood Products, Ulland Brothers, Dieter and Kristin Heinz, Darryl Meyer, Albert Lea Medical Center, Peterson, Savelkoul, Benda, LTD, Richard and Perian Buringa, Mike and Vicki Larson, Mrs. Gerry’s, Kevin and Leean Dulitz, Albert Lea Knights Columbus, Shell Rock River Watershed District, John Bauernfeind, Freedom Lumber, Alamco, Dream Acres, Fastenal, Wagner Construction, Albert Lea Steel, Steve Anderson, Riverland Community College construction students, Orlo Willmert, Greg Steil, Matt Sager, Dewayne Farr, Dave Mullenbach, Mark Fenstermacher, Mark Twedt, Western Rentals, Austin Dulitz, Cub Scout Pack 72, Steve and Gayle Brownlow, Volunteers for Dorman, Sam Chalmers and others. Donations are still being accepted to help complete the project.