BACKUS Eelpout Festival organizer Jim Gerchy has failed to provide Cass County Board with his written plan for complying with terms in the county's Lawful Assembly Ordinance.
The board voted two weeks ago not to require Gerchy to obtain a permit, but to require him to comply with terms of a permit under the county law and submit a written plan.
The county board voted Wednesday to request that Gerchy attend the board's regular Feb. 2 meeting in Walker and to submit his written plan by that date. Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Anderson reported to the board she had attempted to contact Gerchy several times by phone and email to remind him to submit his plan.
The commissioners voted to obtain further comments on the issue before the Feb. 2 meeting from County Attorney Christopher Strandlie, Auditor-Treasurer Anderson, Sheriff Randy Fisher, the city of Walker, the DNR and Gerchy.
Gerchy has been required in the past to obtain permits from the DNR, the sheriff and the city of Walker. Walker's permit applies only to portions of the event held on land in the city park inside the city limits. The county permit would apply to the area on the ice on Leech Lake, where the county believes it has jurisdiction.
Harlan Fierstine of the DNR fisheries office at Walker said in a telephone Wednesday afternoon that the DNR has required the Eelpout Festival to obtain a DNR permit in years past, but will not this year. That is because in the last legislative session state statutes were amended to require fishing tournament organizers only to obtain a state permit if the fish intended to be caught is a game fish. Eelpout are considered rough fish.
Erick Hoglund, sheriff's deputy in charge of recreational activities, said in an interview that all prior Eelpout Festivals and this year's event require the sheriff's event permit.
The sheriff's permit requires event organizers to obtain $300,000 to $1,000,000 liability insurance and to hold the county harmless of any liability for the event. A requirement that a DNR permit is required will no longer apply to Eelpout. The sheriff's permit requires cleaning the site after the event.
Hoglund said in past years Sentence to Serve crews have been the primary workers who clean the ice after Eelpout Festival. When asked what recourse the sheriff would have if Gerchy failed to clean up after his event, Hoglund said the sheriff could refuse to issue a permit the following year.
Gerchy has told the county board and sheriff's department representatives he is only responsible for the area in the city park where he stages Eelpout Festival events. The county contends he also is responsible for the area on the ice where those attending fish and set up their camps.
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