Preserving one of Kimball's greatest assets

Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
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In 1960, Willow Creek was designated as a trout stream. But, for a while, it was a trout stream that didn't offer access to fishermen. Today, DNR Conservation Officer Brian Mies says that a dozen or two anglers fish in the stream regularly. "A lot more people are fishing locally," he says. "With the high price of gas, people aren't   going up to their cabins as much." Mies, too, has experienced the fishing at Willow Creek a number of times, and he caught trout. "It's enjoyable," he says. Fishing in a designated stream, however, requires more than a   license. Anyone age 16 to 64 must also have a trout stamp. Those monies then go into an account used only for trout streams, their upkeep, restoration and development. Originally, DNR stocked brook trout Paul Diedrich, DNR's Area Fisheries Supervisor, says, "We've been experimenting with the stocking [of the stream] because we have not been entirely pleased with the results. Brown trout fingerlings are the most successful we've   ever seen." Initially, the DNR had intended to preserve it as a brook trout stream but that plan didn't meet with a great deal of success. Brook trout are native to Minnesota while brown trout only arrived here in the early 1900s. Of the three species found in southeast Minnesota,   the browns are the hardiest and can survive in waters too warm for brook trout. "The fact that it sustains trout at all makes it unique in our area," says Diedrich. "The city would like to do something about re-routing stream water. In recent months we've met with the city and other bodies to develop a plan for protecting the stream." The best part of the stream flows through property the city acquired. "We acquired land above and below and acquired easements in 1992," he says. Originally, water from many sources had been routed to the stream, but no one knew at the time of the detrimental effects on trout life. "The reason that the creek does so well is that it needs to be cool, under 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and oxygenated," says Brian Mies. "If you get runoff or black dirt or farm chemicals, those things will actually hurt a trout stream. There are a lot of examples of that. Kimball has contacted DNR Fisheries and asked a lot of questions." He adds, "I hope they realize how valuable it is to have a trout stream in our town. There aren't a lot of towns around that have that active a trout stream."  City of Kimball developing a plan  Eric Loewen, who is spearheading the effort on behalf of the city, met with the DNR and other agencies at the end of May. They're awaiting word on a $3,000 state grant that will help enhance the stream and life for the trout who swim its waters. Part of the grant, if awarded, will be used to develop cutbanks, for instance, and the city will need the help of volunteers to install them. The rest of the   monies will go to other entities. The city is also trying to partner with Stearns County, the Clear-water Watershed District and the DNR to come up with a plan to handle runoff. One idea is for residents whose runoff goes into the stream to use rain barrels. Other residents may consider disconnecting their downspouts. "When we get those big rain events," Eric says, "the water is warm and puts a lot of grit and dirt on the streets." It eventually ends up in the stream. "This is an on-going project," he says, "water quality, water control is something we have to be aware of and always keep an eye on. We need to maintain the   momentum." Though the city is in a better   financial situation than it was in a year ago, he points out funds must also go for other necessary projects.  Meanwhile, small improvements are taking place, such as the sign at the entrance to the park, which was recently repaired and replaced. Last week, with the help of the Boy Scouts, Eric tore down an old bridge, one of eight, which they'll replace. Statewide, we have perhaps hundreds of trout streams. Willow Creek is a rather small stream ­- from the wetland complex to the mouth, it's 3.6 miles - and   the potential for a lot of fish is smaller, as well.   "Nevertheless," Paul Diedrich says, "we're looking for every   opportunity to preserve fishing. The fish are not endangered, but trout streams are pretty valuable. If you go southwest in Minnesota, there are only a handful of trout streams."