Austin Lions clubs will host a drive-through pancake fundraiser on May 1 at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center in Austin to support nature center projects, including improving the covered bridge the Lions built in 1973.

Austin Lions to host pancake feed

Clubs’ drive-through fundraiser May 1 to support Jay C. Hormel Nature Center in its 50th year

April 26, 2021 — Eating pancakes and sausage on Saturday will help support the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center in its 50th year thanks to the efforts of Austin Lions Club members.

On Saturday, May 1, three clubs — Austin Noon Lions; Austin Morning Lions; and Evening Branch Lions — will host a pancake fundraiser from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the nature center’s parking lot, 1304 21st St. N.E.

Cost is $5 per person for a meal of three pancakes, two sausages and milk or orange juice. Ankeny’s in Austin is donating the milk and orange juice.

Attendees will drive into the nature center parking lot and pay for a meal from their vehicle. Lions members then will bring the meals in to-go containers to the vehicle. Lions members will make and serve pancakes from the nature center’s maintenance shed on the parking lot’s south side.

“Having a drive-through breakfast will enable us to serve pancakes and support a good cause in a safe manner,” said Jacob Hunerdosse, president of the Austin Morning Lions Club, which typically hosts a “fly in” breakfast fundraiser in July at the Austin airport during Freedom Fest.

Proceeds from Saturday’s event will support projects at the nearly 530-acre nature center owned by the City of Austin. This year is the 50th anniversary of the city acquiring the original 123 acres from Geordie Hormel, one of Jay Hormel’s sons, which saved the arboretum from being developed along Interstate 90.

“We are really thankful for this great support from the Lions clubs to celebrate the nature center’s special anniversary and help improve this beloved place in the community,” said Tim Ruzek, president of the Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center and outreach coordinator for the Cedar River Watershed District, which is helping to promote the event.

The Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, a local nonprofit, aims to enhance and encourage environmental education, scientific opportunities and the enjoyment of nature at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

“The Lions have a long history of supporting the nature center, with the Noon Lions supporting the covered bridge for many years,” Hunerdosse said. “The nature center provides a great recreational resource and learning opportunity for the community.”

In April, Lions members helped with cleanup projects at the nature center, including removing graffiti from the observation tower on the center’s northern end.

Among the projects to be supported by the event is the Lions Bridge — the nature center’s wooden, covered bridge over the North Branch of Dobbins Creek that is a favorite of locals and tourists. Completed in spring 1973 — two years after the nature center started — the iconic bridge also has hosted numerous wedding ceremonies over the years.

Funds from Saturday’s pancake feed will go toward the costs of renovating the covered bridge’s roof and making other improvements to the structure.

In April 1972, the Lions announced an engineer was designing the open-sided, wooden bridge to construct later that year.

“No doubt the Lions Bridge will be an important landmark in years to come,” a column stated in the Austin Daily Herald on April 20, 1972.

The column suggested families seeking to divvy up and tour the nature center’s different trail systems could use the future Lions Bridge as a spot to meet back at a specific time.

“It will be centrally located and within a short walking distance of the parking area,” the article stated.

At the time, the bridge — which was started to be built in August 1972 — was located in what was considered the “northeast part” of the nature center when it was 123 acres. Today — after major land expansions over the years — the bridge is in the nature center’s southwest corner.

At the pancake feed Saturday, membership applications will be available for all Austin Lions clubs in Austin as well as information on joining the Friends of the Nature Center.

The Friends of the Nature Center support and promote environmental education programming and help preserve the center for the enjoyment of future generations. Memberships are supporter ($30-$49); contributor ($50-$99); patron ($100-$499); and lifetime ($500-plus).

Formed in 2007, CRWD works to reduce flooding and improve water quality on the Cedar River State Water Trail and its tributaries in southern Minnesota.