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High Lakes Outdoor Alliance named Volunteer of the Year

Doug Jones, left, and Tom Lesan of High Lakes Outdoor Alliance pose for a photo Friday. High Lakes Outdoor Alliance will be presented with the volunteer of the year award at Tuesday's Creston Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.
Doug Jones, left, and Tom Lesan of High Lakes Outdoor Alliance pose for a photo Friday. High Lakes Outdoor Alliance will be presented with the volunteer of the year award at Tuesday's Creston Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.

High Lakes Outdoor Alliance will be named Volunteer of the Year Tuesday during the Creston Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.

High Lakes Outdoors Alliance is a group of people that came together 12 years ago because they love outdoor recreation and want funds to stay local rather than be dispersed through state or national chapters.

This group was so named because Creston is the highest point on the BNSF Rail Road between Galesburg, Illinois, and Lincoln, Nebraska, there are six lakes in Union County, the group enjoys and supports outdoor activities, and they are a group that is willing to help bring funds to the county through volunteerism.

The HLOA has gained such community support from their goal to buy local, sell local, and keep the money here.

Every year, the HLOA hosts a kids fishing tournament, has kids out at the High Lakes Shooting Range for trap shooting, and they support Green Valley State Park by chopping wood for campers to buy and stocking the lake with Walleye from the proceeds.

The group purchases the chemicals for the DNR to put on their food and dove plots, and host high school, collegiate and professional shooting events at the shooting complex. They split the cost of a native grass drill with the County Conservation Board. That drill was a purchase both groups needed but neither could afford alone.

This year, the HLOA helped pay for the new fishing jetty in Union County, held an all women’s permit to carry class and are planning for the next one, hosted a youth dove hunt and sponsor the archery team at East Union.

There are 65 students out for archery at East Union.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re tall or short or big, anyone can shoot, anyone can be good,” said High Lakes Outdoors Alliance Treasurer Tom Lesan.

The group gets money from grants and is willing to be the local match for county or city purchases.

“Don’t count out sweat-equity,” said High Lakes Outdoors Alliance President Doug Jones.

High Lakes Outdoor Alliance is a group of hard workers. From bringing their own mowers to cut grass, to making soups for meetings and putting in a silt fence before the construction of the shooting complex, these volunteers put their time in to achieve great things.

The biggest event of the year for HLOA is its annual banquet. They have have a meal and an auction to raise money for the next year’s projects.

The HLOA’s main goal is to bring people to the county by promoting outdoor activities that will entice them to spend money here.

“They might eat at a restaurant, they might fill up with gas, they might buy something at Casey’s. Who knows, maybe they’ll stay in a hotel for three or four days to fish. That’s the whole idea, to get people here to spend their money and maybe they’ll come back some time,” said Lesan.

With lakes and fishing being such a success for the group, they have lately been working on making the High Lakes Shooting Range a tourist destination as well.

High Lakes Shooting Range is located just north of Three Mile Lake and is open to the public from sunrise until sunset. A membership is $45 or anyone can go for the day for $5.

“We don’t want anyone to be priced out,” said Lesan.

“Safety is number one,” said Lesan when it comes to the shooting complex.

A new event at the shooting complex this year was Precision Rifle Shooting. That event, called Border Wars, drew competitors from seven different states.

Events like that bring in money for the group to be able to give back to the community.

“For the most part, I’ve never seen High Lakes Outdoors Alliance vote not to contribute monetarily to any project in Union County that’s outdoors related,” said Jones, “If it’s kids and outdoors, we’ll get behind it.”

“There are things that we will be doing in the future. We just can’t tell you what they are yet because as they come up, we’ll vote as a group whether we’re going to do them or not, but really anything outdoors we’re going to see to,” said Lesan.

High Lakes Outdoors Alliance Vice President Jeff Lamb said his favorite part of being a member is the camaraderie within the group.

The High Lakes Outdoor Alliance meeting are the first Tuesday of every month.

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