The History of the New Richland Area Sportsmen’s Club
The New Richland Area Sportsmen’s Club is one of the oldest clubs in the state of Minnesota. Starting in the 1930’s and continuing into the twentieth century. Some activities have remained the same and some have come and gone, but basically the club has continued to survive the good and bad times. The names of those members that have led us through these times will not be used in the history, so deserving members are not omitted.
Club Meeting Places:
In the beginning, the members held club meetings in the old creamery at St. Olaf Lake (1930’s) and later in the upstairs of the “old” American Legion from approximately 1940 through the 1960’s. Around 1970 and into the 90’s, the meetings were held in the “new’ American Legion Hall. Other places were used for meetings during this time as well, including the New Richland City Hall and the New Richland High School Ag room. In the early 1990’s, the local high school was improved and the club was able to purchase one of the “overflow portable classrooms” that were up for sale. They were fortunate enough to receive a 17 acre wildlife area from the State Bank of New Richland(1989) and the Harry Anderson families, which is located East of Highway 13. After purchasing the “classroom”, it had to be moved from the school to the 17 acre site. Having no permits to move such a big building (28’ x 32’) we were lucky enough to wake up one morning and see the building sitting in a beautiful new location which is the current site and permanent home of the New Richland Area Sportsmen’s Club. Other than some paint and general maintenance, the clubhouse remained the same until approximately 1994. At this time a lot more improvements were made to the building including log siding, new shingles and better windows. Shortly after these improvements were added, a beautiful new wood burning stone fireplace(2002) was added to the inside.
Then the “Flood of 2010” came. The water was about 5’ deep on the entrance gate, and 3’ of water ended up inside the building. After the water resided, members reacted quickly and out went the paneling, insulation, carpet, stove, etc. Fortunately the fireplace was still standing with no damage to it. During the following winter months, members completely redid the inside of the clubhouse. These renovations included insulation, sheetrock, paint, cedar trim, new carpet, stove etc. At this writing, our gorgeous clubhouse is still standing and being used for club meetings, gatherings and as a shooting sports headquarters.
Ice Fishing Contests:
The first ice fishing contest was held around the late 1930’s. The members borrowed enough money to purchase an ice auger in hopes of making enough money to pay for that auger. It was a success and the club’s contests continued. The club upgraded to a gas auger mounted on a front loader of a tractor. They would start at daybreak and drill holes up until the start time of the contest. Later, a PTO auger on the front of a tractor was used. Over the last few years, the holes are drilled by volunteer members with their “high powered” gas augers, drilling all 350-400 holes in about an hour. Food stands on the lake were as variable as the weather. Some years, tents were used, other years the “Malron” egg company’s enclosed truck was used as well as camper trailers. One year, the local FFA chapter built an enclosed building and took it down after the contest. The cooking of the popular hot dogs and burgers were done over LP burners, both old and new.
Prize tickets for the contest started at $1.00 a piece and still remain $1.00. Fishing prizes varied from 1/2 hog, 1/4 hog and cash. The grand prize has also changed from 1/2 beef, to $300 and then to $500. The contest always drew a huge crowd because it was one of the few fishing contests that always had contestants catching fish. Some of the bigger fish caught during the contests have been 6 lb. Walleyes, 9 lb. Northern Pike, 4 lb. Bass and many nice Crappies and Perch. The crowd has always had fun at the contests because of the many activities such as merchant prizes, wildlife print drawings, the singing of the National Anthem (by the local American Idol winner), the raising of the American flag and of course catching fish. Isn’t that what a fishing contest is all about? The money raised was used for club expenses and community activities. Only three times during the history of the club has the contest been cancelled due to weather/ice conditions. The last time was in 2012 when we had a very early spring.
St. Olaf Lake:
St. Olaf Lake has always been the home of the February ice fishing contest and other club projects over the years. In the early years of the Sportsmen’s Club, the club worked with the DNR stocking Northern Pike in a rearing pond located on the east side of the park, where water ran off of the fields into a low swampy area that had a dam, before entering the lake. It was a project where the club members were responsible for keeping this area clear of new trees and shrubs, as the Northern needed water and short grass to spawn. Early in the spring, before the ice was out, Northern (females and males) would enter the stream. Club members would then net them and put them into the dam area for the spawning ritual to take place. Other Northern were also trapped from the Little Le Sueur River and from a creek by Beaver Lake, and put into the rearing pond. After the new babies, called fry, got to be about 1-2 inches long, the dam was slowly opened, releasing them into St. Olaf Lake.
Dam repair was always a project! In the early 1980’s, a new dam was installed by the club, with the help of the DNR. Also around that same time, the DNR started bringing the exact number of adult females and males from the hatchery to put into the pond, thus putting an end to the club member’s fish catching fun in the spring!
Around 1997, the DNR bought the rearing pond. The money from that was divided out, giving 1/3 to the club, 1/3 to the City of New Richland and 1/3 to the Lake Association. The rearing pond is still “making” Northern Pike today!
Somewhere around 1980, the outlet dam on the south shore of the lake was maintained by the club. The dam area has a “set elevation” for the lake. Club members would clear the grates from leaves and debris, thus keeping the lake at the desired level to prevent shoreline erosion. Later on, a “helpful” lake property owner volunteered to keep the grates clean and is still maintaining the dam outlet today.
Another project at the lake included the public fishing pier (around 1990). Lakes receiving these piers from the DNR were put on a waiting list. We moved up that list rapidly after volunteering to help pay and install the pier. It’s in a great location and people are still catching fish off of it today!
A 30’ community T-dock was also installed at the lake. This dock is used for fishing, boat loading/unloading and for a restful view of the lake. It is used and maintained by many!
The DNR dock at the boat landing, belongs to the DNR but is maintained and put in and taken out of the lake each year by the club. The landing area is County owned and maintained.
An additional responsibility of the club is the shore land restoration project which is in cooperation with the DNR. This plot is located east of the T-dock. It shows lake property owners how to maintain water plants and shoreline plants to improve lake quality by preserving shoreline erosion and excessive water runoff into the lake.
In the late 1960’s to the 1970’s, the lake was seined for rough fish by “mertens” from Waterville. Every 3 to 4 years, they would come out to St. Olaf Lake in February, use sonar to locate the schools of rough fish and cut a 15’x15’ hole in the ice. They would then string their nets under the ice in a ¼ mile circle out into the lake and pull the nets to the “take out” hole. The fish caught were mostly huge Carp and Buffalo Fish. Pulls of 60,000 to 100,000 pounds of fish were common. These fish were sold in the eastern states and made into fish patties. In the late 1970’s, the fish prices dropped and it was no longer profitable to seine for the rough fish.
Later in the 1970’s, the local FFA members built and installed a nature trail which started by the rearing pond dam and went up the hill to a “lookout” area where a person could sit on a bench overlooking the lake. The trail continued down around the rearing pond. Along the trail were signs identifying plants and animals. The original nature trail still exist today and the trail can still be followed.
In 1999, the club built a sign shelter at the public access where lake information is displayed, such as DNR information, motor use and fishing regulations. The club also improve the pavilion by installing sliding doors on the south side to keep out the wind. In 2008 the club added a yard light and a port-a-potty to the public access area. Also, in 2011 we worked with the Waseca SWCD to put in a erosion control rain guard berm for water entering St Olaf lake. This project was funded thru the "Clean Water Legacy Act".
Club Shooting Facilities/LCMR Grant:
In the 1940’s and 1950’s, the club members would do their trapshooting and pistol shooting at the same place where the club house stands today. The pistol range was a small berm with railroad ties in front of it about 5’x10’. The trapshooting area, located in the same area today, had a thrower in a “bird shed” where the clay targets were set on. The thrower had a 65’ rod in a pipe going back to the shooting area. It had to manually be “cocked” and “pulled” to throw the bird out of the house. There was a period of years when this set up wasn’t used. After the club house building was moved out to the area, club members refurbished the thrower and used it up until 1998, when the club applied for a grant through the LCMR (Legislation Commission for Minnesota Resources) to improve their shooting facilities. The grant was a $7,000 grant with matching funds from the club. The club’s ½ of the money was raised through various fund raisers and the gracious donations from many people and businesses in the area. Thus the work began! The first item of business was the building of the pistol/rifle shooting berm. Dirt was donated by Gordon and Georgette Peterson from their nearby field. Pat Adams moved and built the new berm (60’x50’x20) with his excavating equipment. The shooting range building (15’x90’) and the shooting station benches were built by volunteers and the local FFA members construction class. The berm and shooting paths were then seeded.
The trap range house was made of concrete blocks and built by a volunteer member. The concrete shooting lanes were also put in by volunteers and a local contractor. The clay bird throwing machine was replaced with a fully automated machine that was purchased with the grant funds. Many other “on the grounds” improvements were made during the next couple years following the receipt of the grant, by the local FFA members and volunteers. These improvements included the entrance sign, gate and fence, the planting of the native prairie grass plot, the building of the log storage shed (8’x12’) and log outhouse (5’x8’), the bringing in and planting of large 8’ pine trees which were donated by Vince Peterson, the planting of a row of arborvitae on the north edge of the grounds, the planting of many trees and shrubs around the wildlife habitat area, and trees on both sides of the shooting range. At this time it was also decided to improve the 17 acre swamp area by burning off the grass, thus hopefully getting the native plants to grow in its place. After “darn near” burning the town down, it was decided to let nature run its course and let it remain “natural”! Each year the club plants "wildlife shrubs" and grounds trees to improve the surroundings.
Wildlife Habitat Projects:
From the early years to the present, the club has done projects that improved the habitat for our local wildlife. Club members worked with the SCS (Soil Conservation Service) getting and planting fruit-bearing trees and shrubs that were beneficial to the wildlife, and they are still planting trees each year on the club’s grounds. In the 1990’s, the club worked with ASCS (Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Services) putting in food plots (rows of corn) with area farmers. The club would provide the seed and the farmer provided the 1-2 acre plot of land and planted the corn. The plot stayed in place for 2 years. Then the farmer could harvest any of the remaining corn. He would then receive a Sportsmen’s Club jacket for his kind efforts.
Wood Duck houses were also built by the members and the FFA members. These houses were taken home and put up at different locations, such as: St. Olaf Lake, the clubhouse grounds, golf course and the pond north of New Richland.
During severe winters, pheasants were fed from ear corn feeders which were made and put in desirable locations. The club would provide a load of ear corn in town for any “pheasant loving” person to take, free of charge. The “squirrel loving” people could also help themselves.
Some club members built a few Bluebird houses and encouraged other members to build them also and put them up in useful areas. Feeding the deer hasn’t really ever needed to be a major concern for the local club.
Club Sponsored Activities Over the Years:
>From the early years to the present, the club has had many different projects and activities that are provided for the club members, wildlife and the community. They were not listed in the previous writings but they include: Fox, Rabbit and Coyote Hunts; Oyster and Smelt Feeds; Burger and Fish Frys; Fishermen’s and Hunter’s Night; Appreciation Nights; Farm & City Days open house, floats and balloon tosses; Club Fishing Contests; Take a Kid Fishing Day; Fishing Expo at the Albert Lea Mall; Fun Trapshooting Day; Firearm Safety Training for Youth; and putting up a lighted activities sign outside by the entrance.
In 2013 a shotgun patterning board was added to the shooting range in memory of Ronnie Deckard which was donated in his memory by his wife.
In 2013 the club continued to make improvements at the St Olaf Lake pavilion. A new food serving counter and upgraded electrical outlets were added to the building. Also the exterior siding and trim were painted to match the other buildings in the park.
In 2014 The New Richland Area Sportsmen’s Club continued with the St. Olaf Lake improvements by fixing up the bath house. We painted it to match the other buildings. We also added new green fascia and a new entrance door.
In 2014 The New Richland Area Sportsmen’s Club was the sponsoring organization that improved water run-off coming down from the ditches and onto the public access area and eventually into the lake. Rain gutters and tile were added to the ditches. Also a rain garden berm was constructed to catch the overflow water that would have normally flowed directly into the lake.
In 2014 Improvements were made to all of the buildings at the New Richland Area Sportsmen’s Club facility. The log siding was power washed, sanded down and painted. The gravel parking lot was expanded. New gravel was added to the existing driveway and the newly expanded parking lot. The entrance of the facility needed some updating. Fire trucks and LP trucks were not able to enter, because of the low height of the existing sign, so the old sign was removed and the poles were cut to a more manageable size. A new sign was designed and installed. An announcement board was also attached the new sign.
The sign and announcement board are illuminated at dusk for the night time travelers. Landscaping around the new sign will follow in the Spring.
New cabinets were installed in the club house with drawers and an area for garbage.
An 18x24 storage shed and pavilion was added to the grounds. It includes a 8x14 storage area and a 14x16 open pavilion for picnic tables. This will be finished spring of 2016
Cargill has graciously donated a new roll a dock, complete with seating for St. Olaf Lake. This will be great for all fishermen
and outdoor enthusiasts.
We also upgraded our flag pole in the memorial area. It is heavier duty to withstand our hurricane winds that we have been
Christmas decorations were purchased at the Vince Peterson auction. These include 4 lighted trees and 4 reindeer that are also lighted. We also added a Merry Christmas sign at the entrance.
We finished our storage shed and pavilion on the club grounds.
Was a busy year with many items accomplished such as: New air conditioner for the club house, Led lighting for the club house,
New grounds mower, New trap throwing machine and new .22 cal rifles for our youth firearms safety training classes.
The Club helped with the "Rain Garden" at St. Olaf Lake and erected signs signs for the project. We also graveled our driveway and
parking area, bought a ramp for the public dock, electricity was added to the rifle range, storage shed and entrance area.
St. Olaf was one of the "Host" lakes for the Minnesota Governors fishing opener. We provided the "Welcome" sign
at the lake access.
So many activities these past several months have had to be put on the back burner(covid), but the club members have worked to continue to make improvements to not only the club and club grounds but also the public access area at St. Olaf Lake.
At the lake, our dock area has been completed. We installed a concrete ramp to the dock along with hand rails along it to make it easier for everyone especially anyone who may be handicapped, to either sit and fish off of the dock, or board a watercraft for an outing at the lake. In the park and on the public access landing, we installed new attractive signs that we feel create a more friendly atmosphere in the park and at the docksite. We also did some landscaping, making everything more easily accessible and more attractive.
At the club grounds, an attractive sign denoting our riffle range and pistol range has been installed. New ramps were installed at the trap shooting shed, and the clubhouse and the outhouse. New gravel was installed on the driveway and the parking lot. The picnic tables and scoring table were repaired and received new paint. All five buildings were given a fine paint job. Shrubs and trees around the lot were trimmed where needed.
Activities that have been cancelled for 2020 and 2021.
Youth Firearms Safety Training for 2020, and spring of 2021
Ice Fishing Contest 2021
Fish Fry 2021
New Richland Area Sportsmen’s Club has had the good fortune of making it through both good times and bad times. We thank our members and the community for this accomplishment! We hope we can add another 100+ years of history to our club!!
**Note: If anyone has corrections or additions to our “History”, please contact us.