WALKER — Jared Olson obtained county board approval Tuesday for his 2014 plan to clean trash and improve sanitation at the mid-winter Eelpout Festival he sponsors each winter on Leech Lake in Walker.
He developed the plan with help from the county environmental services department after complaints about cleanup escalated in the last several years. Those complaints go back to prior festival ownerships.
“It’s about a 100-degree turnaround from eight months ago,” Commissioner Jim Dowson said of Olson’s plan for the February 2014 clean-up.
Olson said he will focus on keeping the city park and lake area between the two public landings clear of debris. He said he encourages most encampments to set up in this area.
Each encampment will be provided with red trash bags. He said he will have employees make multiple daily runs with 16-foot trailers between encampments to pick up filled trash bags.
There will be 95 55-gallon drums on the lake and 15 barrels in the city park along walking areas, which will be emptied four times daily, he said. There also will be two 30- to 40-gallon dumpsters at each landing and regular pick-up times scheduled, Olson said.
If encampments do not pick up their refuse, the sheriff will ticket them, he added.
The Monday following the festival, sentence to serve jail crews will clean up the area of any residue left.
Olson warned that snow may cover some debris, so he plans to also clean the lake in the spring during the thaw season. If the sheriff’s dive team is available, they will complete an additional sweep of under-water areas below where encampments were located once Leech Lake thaws, he said.
There will be 35 rented toilet facilities, plus another 40 available for rent by attendees, he said. Chase on the Lake Hotel will rent 10 additional toilet facilities to put in their tents and outside entrance from the lake, he added. These units will be pumped daily.
Kevin Beale of Hackensack, who has appeared before the board previously with concerns about the festival’s impact on the Leech Lake watershed, asked why the encampments can’t be restricted to an area on the lake adjacent to the city.
As it stands now, people can legally camp anywhere on the lake to participate in the festival, he said.
No action was taken Tuesday to limit camping areas. Environmental Services Director John Ringle said his staff will monitor compliance with the plan and review its success following the 2014 festival.