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Rapala Lure Entrepreneur Donates Money for Watershed Project

Ron Weber accepts painting from UMD chancellor Katheryn Martin.

Chancellor Katheryn Martin presents Ron Weber with a painting of the Lester River.

Ron Weber, who fished the Lester River as a child, grew up to help bring the Rapala lure to the United States. That profitable venture, among others, allowed Weber to donate $100,000 to the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) to restore and protect his childhood fishing river system.

"Water is proving to be the most important resource we have," said Weber. "The sooner we start maintaining its quality, the better. This river is a tremendous resource for young people to have access to a good, wholesome sport right here in town."

The resulting project, called the Weber Stream Restoration Initiative on the Lester/Amity Watershed, is being managed by scientists at UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) and Minnesota Sea Grant. They've planned a series of efforts to address excessive sediment in the river and to raise public awareness and cooperation in solving the problem.

Sediment is hard on the aquatic life in streams, especially trout. It can cover spawning habitat and is abrasive to fish's gill and fins. Excessive sediment also reduces habitat quality for aquatic insects, a major food source for stream fish.

The scientists hope the project will foster support for a management plan that will serve as a model for other streams that flow into Lake Superior. So far, 23 other area organizations have pledged to support and participate in the initiative.

"Duluth's streams wind through urban and rural settings and they get a lot of use," said Don Breneman, NRRI aquatic ecologist and initiative coordinator. "More importantly, we have great partnership potential in the Twin Ports area, which gives us more possibilities for additional funding to continue this effort on other streams."

"The most important thing we can do to keep the Lester River healthy is to spread the word on how many activities, even away from a stream, impact what goes on in the river," said Jesse Schomberg, Minnesota Sea Grant coastal communities extension educator. "There are a lot of people who can make a difference, even if they are only working on a small area. It's really up to them."

Weber graduated from UMD with a business degree in 1952. An avid angler, he was introduced to a Rapala lure in 1959 when he was working as an independent fishing tackle representative. Weber traveled to Finland and convinced the Rapala family to move from their home-based business to large-scale production. Weber financed the first Rapala factory in Finland, and imported and distributed millions of lures through Normark Rapala Group, a company he co-founded in 1960 in the Twin Cities. Weber sold the group to Rapala family interests in Finland in the 1990s.

By Sea Grant Staff
June 2005

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