Restoring a lake decimated by flooding
Hobbins (left) and Small at the launch of the Lake Delton Fisheries Restoration Project. Photo courtesy of J.B. Hobbins
Rotarian J.B. "Ben" Hobbins imagines the day when a fisherman trolling Lake Delton, in southern Wisconsin, USA, will turn to a buddy and say, "Let’s try Rotary Reef."
The right to name a reef is one part of the fundraising efforts underway as Hobbins and Dan Small, host of Outdoor Wisconsin and a writer and radio show host, seek support for an ambitious project to restore fisheries to Lake Delton.
On 9 June, massive downpours caused the lake to burst open, its water draining into the Wisconsin River. Several homes, as well as the fish population, were wiped out.
Noting that Lake Delton is critical to Wisconsin’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry, Hobbins says, "I knew I had to do something." Hobbins, who is a member of the Rotary Club of Madison, launched the Lake Delton Fisheries Restoration Project in late August.
"His work on the Lake Delton restoration project is an outstanding example of what one Rotarian’s service can mean for the larger community," says Bob Dinndorf, president of the Madison club. "J.B. recognized how he could fill a gap in the project that could not be done by the Department of Natural Resources or other agencies."
The Wisconsin DNR has said it can restock northern pike and walleye, but that it needs help to restock other species. Hobbins and Small established www.restorelakedeltonfisheries.com to rally support and raise funds.
As CEO of Lake Resources Group/IronClad Lures, a fishing tackle and outdoor products manufacturer, Hobbins has connections with outdoor enthusiasts and is optimistic that the broader Rotary community also will appreciate the project’s value.
"This project is an opportunity for Rotary to show leadership," Hobbins says. "We can hold Rotary up to the world as a steward."
Hobbins and Small hope to raise $300,000. Virginia-based FishAmerica Foundation, the conservation and research foundation of the American Sporfishing Association, has already pledged up to $10,000 a year for three years.
"If all of our [Rotary clubs] did just one small fundraiser--a fish fry, for example--that could really add up," Hobbins says. "Everyone can be a part of the success."
Hobbins learned about service from his grandfather, Delbert Forsberg, the 1963-64 president of the Madison club and a Paul Harris Fellow. Forsberg often brought home foreign cash and coins for Hobbins from travels he made as a Rotarian.
"I still have those coins in a cigar box," Hobbins says. "His travels and that pocket change sparked my own interest in living abroad and in the wonder of this planet’s cultures and religions."
Hobbins lived for 18 years in Europe, where he was active with the American Chamber of Commerce in France. He only recently moved back to the United States, immediately joining Rotary.
"Rotary goes hand in hand with everything else I do," Hobbins says. "It’s internal to me to help, and our Rotary network is so strong."