Quincy News

Cornhole tournament generates funds for Quincy Bay restoration project

Donnie Owsley competes on Saturday in the Battle of the Bags, a cornhole tournament, at the Oakley-Lindsay Center. Proceeds benefited a group aiming to restore Quincy Bay. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 18, 2019 12:01 am

QUINCY -- Ricky Disseler used to throw a lot of bags in cornhole competitions in the Quincy area.

"I don't do it much anymore," he said. "I play a lot of golf now."

But on Saturday, Disseler went out of his way to be part of the "Battle of the Bags" cornhole tournament taking place at the Oakley-Lindsay Center. He was there not so much to compete for cash prizes, but because he wanted to support a cause that's close to his heart.

The tournament, which continues Sunday, is a fundraiser for the Quincy Bay Area Restoration and Enhancement Association. QBAREA is seeking up to $20 million in federal funds to restore Quincy Bay, the 3 1/2-mile-long backwater at the city's doorstep.

Quincy Bay at one time was a fishing and hunting paradise. But years of accumulated siltation have severely eroded the bay, endangering its future.

Disseler is a member of the Mississippi Valley Hunters and Fishermen's Association. He believes strongly in QBAREA's mission of trying to save Quincy Bay.

"I've been hunting in the bay since I was 18 years old," Disseler said.

"We used to have about 150 duck blinds. Now we're down to about 20-25 because the bay is silting in, and we've lost a lot of it. It doesn't hold the birds like it used to. I would like to see it get back to that."

QBAREA's goal is to restore the natural conditions of Quincy Bay through ecosystem restoration, habitat creation and sediment reduction steps.

Disseler hopes QBAREA is successful.

"Fishing used to be phenomenal in the bay, but now there's not much water in most places to even catch fish," he said. "I'll never see it replenished in my lifetime, but I'd like to see it for other people's kids."

Rob Ebbing, one of five QBAREA directors, said the cornhole tournament is generating funds to help cover some of the organization's operating costs.

"We're constantly needing to keep people from QBAREA in front of the Corps of Engineers and other government agencies," he said. "We just had somebody down in St. Louis at meetings this week, and we will have people at a meeting this week in LaCrosse (Wis.)."

Ebbing, the executive director of the Oakley-Lindsay Center, is an avid boater and outdoorsman who fears for the future of Quincy Bay.

"The bay is silting in, and if we don't get something done in the near future, the bay -- the largest natural bay on the upper Mississippi River -- will turn into a marsh, fill in and be gone," he said. "Our grandchildren won't know what the bay is unless we can fix it."

Glenn Sanders, president of the Mississippi Valley Hunters and Fishermen's Association, was working as a volunteer at Saturday's tournament because he is convinced Quincy Bay's future is on the line.

"We're at a time frame right now that we either get into this next round of funding to restore the bay or it's going to be lost forever," he said.

Sanders, a retired conservation police officer, said many areas of the bay are now less than 18 inches deep, and muddy islands are starting to pop up. He said the shallow water won't support popular game fish species that fisherman like to catch.

"The fish can't stay in the bay. The water gets too hot in the summertime," he said. "Game fish cannot tolerate those high temperatures."

Dredging the bay to restore deep-water habitat might not be an option if action isn't taken soon. "Hydraulic dredging won't work once trees start growing out there," he said.

Sanders said QBAREA's application for federal funding received high marks in the first round of reviews. "We actually tied for first in the initial balloting," he said.

Another round will be coming up within the next couple of months.

"I'm real confident right now that, from a scientific standpoint and from a public support standpoint, we're going to be right there at the top," he said.

Among those showing up to support QBAREA at Saturday's Battle of the Bags was Adams County Clerk Chuck Venvertloh, an avid cornhole player. He runs the Knights of Columbus bags league on Wednesday nights.

"It's a good cause, but I'm not sure some of these guys know about that part of it," he said. "They're just here to throw bags and have a good time."

Venvertloh said cornhole competitions have been exploding in popularity.

"It's one of those games that anybody can play," he said. "You don't have to be very athletic. You don't have to be in good shape. It's just a fun game."

Ron Keith of Bowling Green, Mo., attended Saturday's event and at one point held the lead in a long-toss competition by scoring a bag from 38 feet.

"I used to play horseshoes," he said. "Cornhole is a lot easier and a lot more fun."

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