By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA took on the task of refurbishing the Howard Lake fishing pier in Memorial Park last fall, and worked on it all winter long in the agricultural construction and agricultural mechanics classes.
The fishing pier was originally transported to Howard Lake by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in 1986, according to Tom Goepfert, Howard Lake public works director.
It had plastic-covered Styrofoam floats that had started to become waterlogged after nearly 25 years of use.
The wooden posts and decking of the pier were also beginning to show their age and starting to rot away.
Last summer, Tim Edgeton of the DNR came to check the condition of the pier, and after seeing what bad shape it was in, offered to cover the cost of materials if Howard Lake provided the labor.
Howard Lake Public Works Department contacted FFA advisor Jim Weninger to see if this would be a project the FFA would like to take on.
“We couldn’t have done this without Winnie’s (Weninger’s) class. We would have had to contract the work out if they didn’t do it,” said Howard Lake Grounds Superintendent Tim Kosek.
So, last September, the pier was taken out of the water, disassembly began, and pieces of it were hauled to HLWW High School.
Dan Mages of Mages Truck and Trailers in Howard Lake volunteered to haul the larger pieces of the pier to the high school, Goepfert said.
Students in the agricultural construction and the agricultural mechanics classes worked on the pier throughout the school year, Weninger said.
All of the wood was stripped from the pier, and new pontoons were added by the students.
The wood taken from the pier was recycled and used as racking in the FFA shed, Weninger said.
Because the bolt holes for the new pontoons did not match up with the old pontoon bolt holes, the students had to cut and weld new bolt holes and metal plates, Goepfert said.
“I learned how to do a lot of stuff while working on the pier,” said Tyler Gruenhagen, one of the FFA students who spent a lot of time working on the pier.
Although there were many students who took part in the project, Gruenhagen, Brandon Posch, Jake Grangroth, and Jacob Perry were the students who spent the most time working on it, Weninger said.
“I thought it was a lot of fun, but it was a lot of work,” Posch said. “It turned out really well.” He estimates that the classes spent a total of 50 hours working on the pier.
“We only had an hour to work on them every day, so it took a long time,” Gruenhagen said.
At the end of May, as school was about to end for the summer, the students in both classes put the finishing touches on the pier at the lake.
To show their appreciation for the FFA’s help on the fishing pier, Howard Lake’s public works department gave them a pizza party.
“It took a lot of time and work for them, so we wanted to thank them,” Kosek said.
Although the water has been high on Howard Lake, the public works department has placed the fishing pier as far into the water as possible at this time, and it is ready for use.