Clayton County Best project looks to make fishing easier for the community

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Central student IJ Hubbard paints the prototype fishing pole holder for a project through the Clayton County Best class.

The fishing pole holder prototype has been tested along the Turkey River in Elkader, where the group plans to put up four holders.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The Central students in Clayton County Best (CCB) continue to leave their mark around the community. The latest project is another example of that, as IJ Hubbard, Joel Thiese and Quentin Schaffer spearheaded the installation of fishing pole holders along the Turkey River.


The project, while a result of the CCB class at Central, was an idea that went beyond the classroom. At least it did for Hubbard, who mentioned it’s more than just receiving a grade. It’s also about giving back to the community, making friends and bringing families together over every hook, rod and cast. 


Hubbard noted this project presented her an opportunity to learn about and interact with the people of the town, like Elkader City Administrator Jennifer Cowsert, the park board and public works director Jason Scherf, as well as her fellow classmates.  


The fishing holders project also looks to solve a problem by providing fishing assistance to the elderly, young children and those in wheelchairs—anyone really who might struggle to hold a rod for any length of time. The fishing pole holder gives people the chance to continue engaging in an outdoor activity, socializing and spending time with family, as opposed to struggling or simply not enjoying a favored activity. 


This is something Thiese noticed when he went fishing along the Turkey River and Hubbard discussed fishing adventures with her younger siblings. Hands free fishing, especially for the young, makes the activity easier and simpler. 


In an effort to gauge the need for this project, the three students sent a survey to the student body as well as some local businesses and others. The survey was answered by 39 people, 76 percent of whom indicated a fishing pole holder would benefit someone they knew, particularly the elderly. 


One respondent even mentioned the holders would help those with “bad wrists,” while another brought up the issue of a wheel chair. As for the young, respondents indicated it would be easier for children, as well as make fishing a more relaxing activity. 


Additionally, Hubbard mentioned a few “cute little stories” that were brought to her individually, talking about how the project was an overall good idea. One of them was about a grandfather who just likes sitting down with this person’s grandmother and going fishing because “sometimes fishing isn’t about just catching a fish, it’s about quality time,” Hubbard said. 


With the data in hand, the decision was made to move forward.  


The first item on the list was creating a design, which was a group effort and required some alterations along the way. According to Hubbard, the original idea was to have the entire structural pole at an angle, with sheet metal anchors to the cement and the holders. The reason was to make the holders removable in case of flooding and during snowfall, so they wouldn’t interrupt the snow removal process. 


What they settled on was the actual holders being at an angle, rather than the entire pole, with the two holders on the pole at different heights to accommodate kids as well as adult. The design remained removable, though it will rely on cement anchors rather than sheet metal to hold it down. 


Additionally, the pole holders, which are expected to be in place year-round, can only be removed with a special tool to prevent theft. As for who will actually remove the holders during a flood or snowfall, Hubbard indicated that, as of now, her group would be along with other members of CCB. Presumably, once Hubbard and the others graduate, that duty would fall to new CCB students to remove and maintain. 


Once the design was finalized, the students had to build the holders, which is a low-budget project utilizing the shop tools at the school and recycled metal provided by Schaffer. The other materials, such as cement anchors, were purchased locally at Norby’s with funds from the CCB budget, at a cost of around $25. 


Hubbard joked most of the building was done by Thiese and Schaffer, who have more experience with welding and construction, while she was the communications side and did some of the painting. 


The project will install four pole holders in total, with three by the white water rapids and the other anchored in at the handicap landing across from the city pool. The decision to stop at four was made due to the space required to fish, to prevent lines from tangling and not to overcrowd the areas for tourism. However, Hubbard noted more holders could be added in the future if there is a need. 


At this point, the project needed to receive approval from the park board. This is where Hubbard, the communications arm of the project, took center stage. First, Hubbard sent an email to Cowsert, who shared the idea and photos with the park board and city council, who “thought it was a neat idea.” 


Hubbard then attended a meeting, which she joked was “really early in the morning,” with the park board—which was just Scherf, who will be the one actually installing the holders when they’re finished. Discussion revolved around the design and the issue of the holders being a potential tripping hazard, but in the end, the holders were approved with expectation that the bottom of the holder would be painted yellow for visibility. 


Commenting on the experience with Hubbard and working with the students in CCB, Scherf said, “IJ and her team had a great plan. We just tweaked it a little bit. City council approved the project; we all think it fills a need. It’s been great working with the CCB kids. It’s nice to see them trying to help and fix problems around town.”


Construction of the holders has been ongoing, with work beginning in October with minimal setbacks. Hubbard successfully tested the prototype, so group members remains hopeful the holders can be installed this month. Otherwise, installation will be done next spring, before the fishing tournament. 


While the project fills a need for the community, it also hits close to home for Hubbard. “I remember some of my best times was going fishing with my grandpa down at the pond,” she said. Old age and other ailments hindered her grandfather’s ability to go fishing later in life, so it prevented some bonding experiences and cultivating that relationship over a shared love of fishing. 


Something like the pole holders would have made fishing possible for Hubbard’s grandfather, and this aspect was important for Hubbard. “I would like to have kids having the opportunity to spend time with their grandparents, and this is one way that can be done,” she said. 

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