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Lake erosion control project sends cleaner water down the Cannon

It started out as a simple request, backed by a series of photos shot after a heavy rain.

Neighbors Ben and Rachel Streiff and Pete Cook moved to Circle Lake to be close to nature, enjoy outdoor recreation and take in the sunsets. But a growing gully between their two properties threatened that enjoyment.

When the gully persisted after heavy rains washed away their own attempts and a landscaper’s efforts, the neighbors knew it was time to contact the Rice Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD).

The 837-acre lake, added to Minnesota’s impaired waters list in 2006 due to excess nutrients, sits roughly 7 miles southeast of Lonsdale. The lake is hyper-eutrophic — very nutrient-rich, with frequent and severe algal blooms and low water clarity. It’s also shallow, with a maximum depth of 14 feet. Houses line its shore. The adjacent land is in agricultural production.

Located in the Wolf Creek subwatershed, Circle Lake outlets into Wolf Creek. From there it flows into the Cannon River at Dundas, and eventually the Mississippi River at Red Wing. Thus, soil erosion and its excess nutrients entering Circle Lake affects the water quality of many downstream in the Cannon River Watershed.

An active lake association was part of what attracted Ben and Rachel Streiff to Circle Lake. The Circle Lake Association established the Circle Lake Improvement District in 2019 to generate money for projects that move the lake closer to removal from Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) impaired waters list. To Ben Streiff, the lake association’s hard work to improve the lake seemed rare. He wanted to be a part of it.

“Growing up, my aunt and uncle lived along Mink Lake near Maple Lake, and when I was younger, they did a project and it drastically improved the water,” said Streiff. “The lake became crystal clear, with bass and sunfish. It was always in my mind with a lake association that’s active and has the lake’s best interest in mind.”

Good things happen when individuals work together with a common goal, Streiff added.

Rice SWCD technician Emmie Scheffler received Ben Streiff’s email request. She served as the liaison among the property owners and Chris Nelson, an engineering technician with the Southeast SWCD Technical Support Joint Powers Board (JPB).

A heavy rain in June 2019 prompted the landowners to contact Rice SWCD.

The land around the drainage tile continued to erode, forming a gully between the Streiff and Cook properties. Sections of the tile were missing or not reinforced.

While both landowners had attempted to stabilize the gully, the erosion continued, and mini sinkholes continued to form. Eventually, the draw between them deteriorated to the point where the retaining wall on Cook’s property and sediment along both yards were washing into the lake. The gully was more than they could repair. A landscaper fixed the site, but subsequent rains washed away the repairs.

Meanwhile, the erosion worsened.

Nelson described a sediment plume of soil that entered the lake. Led by Nelson, the JPB determined the best option was to replace the failing tile.

The COVID-19 pandemic added complexity to the project. After Nelson designed it and a contractor was selected, the homeowners learned of statewide PVC piping and materials shortages. The cost of materials fluctuated from $9 to $32 per linear foot. The result: A project redesign.

Frustrated, the homeowners contemplated waiting one year. But after talking to Scheffler and Nelson, they decided to move forward.

Nelson redesigned the project, which was then re-bid. Ultimately, the landowners selected a new contractor. The new design incorporated materials that were more readily available and reasonably priced.

Nelson reduced the scope of the project, resulting in fewer, more heavily reinforced joints. New materials connected to existing systems. The redesign met the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) specifications.

Streiff said the new design worked out better — it preserved the privacy they greatly appreciated by retaining a few trees and lilacs that otherwise would have been removed.

“Working with the SWCD was a good experience. We were happy to have them on our side because they know what to look for. We tried ourselves; didn’t work. Hired a landscaper; didn’t work. It’s nice to have an expert in the field explain how it should be and what would work,” said Streiff.

Work finished on July 10. The project’s estimated annual pollution reductions include 2.1 tons of sediment and 2.1 pounds of phosphorus. It’s estimated to curb soil erosion by slightly more than 6 tons a year and will help send cleaner water down the Cannon River.

The $19,225 cost of the project was covered by $15,740 in local capacity funds (a direct Clean Water Fund appropriation from the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources [BWSR] to SWCDs) from two fiscal years for construction, plus technical support from Rice SWCD and the Southeast SWCD Technical Support JPB; and a $3,485 landowner and Circle Lake Improvement District match.

For questions about the Circle Lake erosion control project, contact Rice SWCD District Technician Emmie Scheffler at Emmie.scheffler@riceswcd.org. To learn more about erosion control practices, visit the Rice SWCD website at www.riceswcd.org. If you have an erosion problem on your property, feel free to contact the Rice SWCD at 507-332-5408.

Vision and an interest in guns helped Ahlman build business, Shooter's Roundup
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Creativity and vision were two traits that helped Larry Ahlman turn a small, two-person shop in Morristown into the region’s largest gun store with 46 employees and establish the popular Shooter’s Round-Up, which has become one of the nation’s premiere shooting sports events.

“I keep thinking about his vision. The guy had the vision,” Rachael Howe said about her father Larry Ahlman, who died Sept. 19 in Rochester. He was 77.

“He would get on something, and tell us about something or an idea he had, and we might think he was nuts but then he would run with it and do it.

“His creativity was incredible. The ability to take his vision and mix it with his creativity and come up with something that is pretty incredible, to me that was impressive.”

Members of the Ahlman family gathered in Larry Ahlman’s office Friday to talk about the legacy left by their father, who guided Ahlman’s Guns for over 50 years.

“He loved guns,” said son Mike Ahlman, who helps run the store today. “To him, when he had guns it meant ‘Hey, I’m going up hunting with my dad at the cabin,’ and spending time with his family.”

The family connections were echoed by son Ben Ahlman, who works as a pilot for Delta and also helps out at the store when his schedule allows.

“A lot of his motivation was family oriented. He really wanted to keep moving forward what Cap (Ahlman) had started,” Ben Ahlman said. “I think that was his biggest motivation.”

Howe said, “My dad used to say he would’ve anything to have his dad walk through the store now … just to make his dad proud.”

Martin ‘Cap’ Ahlman was Larry Ahlman’s father and he started the business on property first purchased by Larry’s grandfather F.H. Ahlman, who immigrated from Germany. An accident suffered by Cap forced a career change that resulted in the birth of Ahlman’s Guns.

“His dad started it,” said Mike. “He had a farming accident and he couldn’t farm anymore. It was near the end of the World War II and there were all these guns in surplus, military rifles, and they were a dime a dozen. People were getting back from the war and they wanted them sporterized and turned into hunting guns.”

This included things such as putting a hunting scope on the rifle or restocking them.

“He sporterized the guns and then turned his hobby into a full-time profession,” Mike said of his grandfather .

The original gun shop was located on the store’s current location, and its original focus was on gunsmithing with not much retail.

Larry grew up with the gun shop being a big part of his life. He graduated from Morristown High School in 1961 and served in the U.S. Navy on the USS Intrepid before returning home.

Cap’s death in 1965, which helped determine Larry’s decision to continue the family’s legacy .

“My dad really didn’t know what he wanted to do when he came back, but it was kind of made clear when Grandpa passed away,” Mike said. “He (Larry) took it over and slowly built it up with more of the repair work and a lot more of the retail.”

At this same time, Larry Ahlman married his wife Irma Schmidtke on July 22, 1966. The couple went on to raise three children. Irma worked at the store until her death in 2013.

In his early days as the leader of the gun shop, Larry Ahlman specialized in checkering gun stocks and that helped grow the company.

“The biggest thing he made money on to start with was checkering gun stocks,” Mike said. “He did 100s of them, and worked worked countless hours doing gun stocks for companies such as Herter’s, Winchester and Savage. Dad did 90 percent of the work by himself until he hired someone to help him out with that process. Back then, there were no machines or lasers…the work was all done by hand.

“Checkering was his bread and butter, it is what made him his money.”

The store continued to grow on the property in Morristown, and in the 1980s, Larry expanded his business holdings to include a local boat shop and Ahlman’s Sport and Cycle in Owatonna. He later sold off both businesses to the benefit of the gun shop.

“He sold those two off and focused on this (the gun shop) entirely and that when this started exponentially started growing,” Howe said.

Rise of the Roundup

The growth of the store continue when Larry adding more land to the property and this allowed him to offer a home to the Morristown Gun Club, which is still located next to the gun store. He also provided space for other groups including the Cedar Valley Vigilantes (a cowboy action shooting club), the Faribault Archery Club and a local black powder shooting group.

An advocate for shooting sports, Larry also used the property for the annual Shooter’s Roundup, which is held every year at the end of August.

The concept of the Shooter’s Roundup was an offshoot of an event Cap started back in the day.

“His dad started the Rifle Roundup and they would have people come out and shoot at different targets on a track set up behind the store,” Mike Ahlman said.

Lack of interest eventually halted the Rifle Roundup, but the idea was always there in the back of Larry’s mind to bring back another event of that type. About 10 years after the last Rifle Roundup, a sales representative from Smith and Wesson encouraged Larry to have a one-day event to promote his products.

A sale representative from another gun company encouraged Larry to add in other companies the next year and the result was the birth of the Shooter’s Roundup. Soon other features were added to the Shooter’s Roundup including live entertainment, food booths, historical reenactments, trick shooting displays and the opportunity to test fire a wide variety of firearms on the property’s multiple shooting ranges.

From its humble beginnings, the two-day Shooter’s Roundup now attracts over 5,000 visitors annually making it one of the top events of its kind in the country.

“My dad always said he wanted to make this (the Shooter’s Roundup) like the Disneyland of gun shooting,” Howe said.

Mike added, “I don’t think he ever expected it to get that big, but that was his passion every year. He always had to find something new.”

In addition to his work at the shop and with the Shooter’s Roundup, Larry was active in the shooting sports community and served on the boards of the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Association of Firearms Retailers.

A passionate outdoorsman, Larry loved to hunt and spend time at the family cabin in Ely, near his beloved Boundary Waters. He also loved to travel and spend time with his family on annual vacations. His travels would allow him to hunt in many locations such as Argentina for dove, Hudson’s Bay in Canada for geese and trips to Montana and Wyoming.

“He really had a passion for traveling and learning more about things,” Howe said of her father.

Many talents

A man of many talents and interests, Larry was an accomplished writer and penned four books and 100s articles for hunting and gun publications. His books were fiction, but were richly based in his life experiences including his time spent in the Boundary Waters, the Navy and also hunting out west.

“He started writing later in life,” Howe said. “I remember him reading a book about grammar, and I asked him why he was reading it and he said ‘if I am going to write, I have to have proper grammar.”

Part of his desire to build a cabin up north was to provide a retreat for his writing, unfortunately Larry love out the outdoor prevented some of that literary work from being accomplished.

“When he went up there, he didn’t want to write because he wanted to be outside,” Howe recalled.

Travel and time spent at the cabins were something that Larry enjoy immensely, but he always called Morristown his home. According to the three Ahlman siblings, Larry never had serious aspirations to live anywhere else.

“He always called this (Morristown) God’s country. I lived out of state for awhile, and when I moved back, he said ‘welcome back to God’s country,” Howe said.

Mike noted, “He really liked the area too because he had a lot of family here.”

Family was a priority for Larry Ahlman and relished the fact that his wife and three children were all involved with the gun shop over the years.

“He was a great father,” Mike Ahlman said. “He would spend time with you, but when it came to a certain time, he would have to go to the gun shop. So, if you wanted to spend time with Dad, you came over to the gun shop.”

Howe added, “When you came home from school and wanted to see Dad, he would be here in the gun shop. So, if you needed help with your homework sometimes, you had to come here (to the gun shop).

Ben, Mike and Rachael Ahlman also recalled the generosity of their father and his many contributions over the years to various community projects and groups. He was the type of person who preferred that his donations remained anonymous.

“He was a quiet, philanthropic person,” Howe said. “He was very generous but quiet about it.”

An example of this was his financial support of his church in Morristown and he also helped support one of the city’s Christmas lights display contests thanks to his love of the holiday season, due in part to the fact his birthday was on Christmas Day.

The Ahlman children also talked about the time their father gave them each $2,000 apiece and told them to donate the money to whichever cause(s) they felt needed the money over the course of the year.

“It was more for us to pay it forward than just writing a check to give it away,” Howe said. “He wanted it (the money) to actually have an impact.”

In his last years of life, Larry suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He approached his health issues with the same determination he approached all aspects of his life.

“He very aggressively researched the disease and was aggressive in the treatment with his doctors at Mayo,” Mike said.

This will to carry on was displayed in the modification of his All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) after he was diagnosed with COPD.

“He loved riding his ATV with his dog around the property here,” Howe said. “In order to keep doing that he had brackets mounted to his ATV to hold his oxygen tanks.”

Larry’s legacy will continue with Ahlman’s Guns in rural Morristown in the future thanks in part to his vision and a keen understanding of the business…and what makes shooting sports and hunting such passionate pastimes.

“He used to tell me that the unique thing about guns is that they don’t lose their value,” Howe said. “You can have a gun now that you bought 30 to 40 years ago and it still works.”

Mike added, “If your Dad gives you a gun, you are never going to sell it. We will totally refurbish someone’s old gun that Dad or Grandpa gave to them and they might spend 10 times its value to fix it up, but it’s Dad’s gun … something he bought and touched. It amazes me today that people want that.”

“My Dad was really into that part of the business. The nostalgia of it was something that he really liked.”


Montgomery and Le Center TCU graduates injured in crash near Lonsdale

A crash just outside Lonsdale sent five to the hospital, including two recent Tri-City United High School graduates.

Hwy. 19, just outside Lonsdale. (Google Maps image)

According to the Minnesota State Patrol, Jose Leonardo Herrera-Lara, 19, of Le Center, and Kylie Elizabeth Maxa, 18, of Montgomery, sustained “non-life threatening injuries” when their vehicle collided with another on Hwy. 19 at about 4 p.m. Wednessday, .

The other vehicle contained driver Sutao Song Mccann, 41, of Farmington, and two children at 10 and 12 years old; they were all sent to Hennepin County Medical Center, according to the report. Mccann’s injuries were considered “non-life threatening” but there was no indication as to the injuries of the children.

The crash report said that a Toyota Highlander, driven by Mccann, was traveling westbound on Hwy. 19 and the Ford F-150, driven by Herrera-Lara, was traveling eastbound on Hwy. 19 when the vehicles collided at 70th Street W. The report indicates no alcohol was involved and all were wearing seat belts.

A GoFundMe page set up by Maxa’s friend, Lauren Folkerts, said that Maxa was airlifted to HCMC. Later, Maxa’s mother, Leta Maxa, confirmed that her daughter was in the hospital with a broken back, along with a laceration on her chin, while Herrera-Lara was at home recovering.

Later, through CaringBridge, Leta Maxa said her daughter had successful surgery on her back Oct. 8, but she was still in a lot of pain, recovering in the hospital. Herrera, meanwhile, had chest pain and abdominal discomfort, along with a concussion.

Jose Leonardo Herrera-Lara, 19, of Le Center, and Kylie Elizabeth Maxa, 18, of Montgomery were injured in a crash outside Lonsdale. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Folkerts’ GoFundMe)

Folkerts described Kylie Maxa, a 2021 TCU graduate, and Hererra-Lara, a 2020 TCU graduate, as “amazing, kind people who are avid members of their communities, TCU High School graduates and are truly loved by so many.” She described Herrera-Lara as being Maxa’s significant other.

“Kylie is employed as a licensed family childcare provider in New Prague, and she truly has a gift working with young children,” Folkerts wrote. “She is a student at South Central [College] in Mankato, and was a member of the TCU dance team.”

In response to a supportive post on Facebook, Leta Maxa said, “I never expected the outpouring of kind words, prayers and honest concern from people. And so. many. people!”

The GoFundMe page had raised $3,850 toward a $5,000 goal by the morning of Oct. 8, a day after it went up. One donor said “We are praying hard for Kylie and Leo.” If you’d like to donate and/or see more, visit gofundme.com/f/help-kylie-leo-recover-from-their-auto-accident.

The Lonsdale Fire Department, Lonsdale Police Department and Rice County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene of the crash, assisted by the State Patrol.