Reporting Liz Collin
WALKER, Minn. (WCCO) – The Eelpout Festival is known as a must-see in Minnesota, but two months after the three-day ice-fishing party and the lake that hosts it still isn’t cleaned up.
People who live near Leech Lake have picked up cans, bags of garbage, even furniture since the festival.
“This is just an example of what we’ve pulled off the lake,” said Franz Plattner, who lives on the lake.
Plattner says he’s picked up frozen carpet, cans, bottles and firewood from the lake. He now worries about what hides under the fresh snow brought on by recent storms.
“There’s all kinds of human waste out there,” he said. “Just everything that you can imagine.”
From his house, he’s had a front-row seat to the Eelpout Festival for 25 years. And with each passing winter, he’s grown more frustrated with what’s left behind.
“I have about 50 hours of cleaning up in, this year,” Plattner said.
He added that it takes a lot of time to remove items from the lake because they’ll melted into the ice.
For three days in February, some 10,000 people visit Walker, Minn., to party on one of Minnesota’s largest lakes.
Web Extra: Frank & Chris Visit The Eelpout Festival
This year, 38 people were booked into jail for taking that celebration a little too far.
But that’s not what’s getting the most attention at Cass County board meetings — it’s the garbage.
“We didn’t want to make such a such big issue out of this, it never should have been an issue. It should have just been cleaned up,” Plattner said.
Jared Olson — who has owned Eelpout for two years — agrees.
“It does need to be done better,” he said.
He says the constant snowfall this season has slowed his efforts to clear the lake, but he says that he appreciates the help from the people in town.
“I’m the organizer of the festival, but, you know…I am trying to put a better plan together for next year,” Olson said.
Next year, he said he’ll bring in more dumpsters and pay more people to clean up, with a push for it all to be finished by the Sunday following the festival, rather than the spring.
The Cass County Sheriff’s Department requires the event organizer to post a $5,000 deposit to make sure all of the garbage is cleaned up after the event. That money was returned to Olson after this year’s event when the sheriff’s department decided they did a good job cleaning up.
While Plattner knows how important Eelpout is to his town, he just doesn’t want to see the leftovers for so long.
“If we can do something about it and get this done right…that’s what we want,” he said.