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Scenic drive, scenic flight . . . The water of the Des Lacs Lake takes
on the same hue of blue as the sky above along the Scenic Lake Road
running from Kenmare to the Baden overpass south of town. A bi-wing
crop spraying plane flying makes its approach to the Kenmare Airport
in the upper left portion of the photo taken Monday.
By Caroline Downs
Looking to get out for a lovely drive around Kenmare?
Take the Scenic Lake Road south of town and enjoy the new graveled surface.
The route is officially open again, according to Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge manager Chad Zorn.
“The closed signs were pulled last Wednesday,” he said. “They did a nice job. I’m pretty happy with it.”
Work started in early July on the project, which is a joint effort between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Federal Highway Administration. In Phase III of the project, 3.01 miles of the road were widened and re-graveled. Culverts were placed and drainage improved in general. Zorn noted several soft spots on the roadway were dug out and repaired.
He was pleased with work done by the Bell Contracting crews, based in Columbia, MO, and with the $1.9 million project cost.
“I think that cost was fair and they kept on their schedule,” Zorn said after his final inspection of the road segment. “They worked long hours and they did a good job.”
Zorn said the group was comfortable with their living arrangements in Kenmare. “They’ve been happy and impressed with the friendliness of the community,” he said. “They feel like they’re at home.” The crew will remain in Kenmare and commute daily now to a road project at the Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge.
Plans to replace
bridge to Brickyard
Work on the Scenic Lake Road has been taking place in anticipation of paving the entire segment from Kenmare to U.S. Highway 52 at a later date, as funds become available. Phase I of the project was completed in 2009, beginning at the southern end of the road and working north about one mile. Phase II was finished in 2011, with another 1.1 miles of the road rehabilitated just past the parking area for Munch’s Coulee.
Zorn is already looking ahead to Phase IV work on the road. “Plans are moving forward to rebuild the bridge to the Brickyard Road,” he said.
The wood plank bridge, most likely constructed in the 1950s according to Zorn, was damaged by high water during the spring and summer of 2011. The bridge provides a place where maintenance and fire crews can cross the Des Lacs Lakes and access both sides of the refuge. Local hunters use the bridge to access the west side of the refuge below Tasker’s Coulee during deer, pheasant and wild turkey seasons.
Zorn said plans at this time call for the 40-foot bridge to be rebuilt as a 60- to 80-foot bridge. A portion of the road going up the Brickyard Hill west of the bridge would also be improved.
While those plans look fairly certain for the 2013 budget, Zorn was less certain about construction on the final 1.4-mile section of the Scenic Lake Road that remains untouched.
That portion of the road, beginning at the south edge of Kenmare, is owned by Canadian-Pacific Railway.
“I’d like to see the road rebuilt so it’s a complete project all the way into town,” said Zorn. “That segment needs to be widened and re-graveled.”
Zorn looked at that portion of the road with a CP Railway representative last week and discussed the project with him. “This has been an on-going negotiation project for as long as I can remember working up here,” Zorn said.
He explained one option was to continue, with the road improvement project as a joint venture between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the railroad. A second option involved a transfer of the property to the USFWS for sole ownership. “I think it would be best for the refuge to own it, but I’m willing to negotiate on any ideas,” said Zorn.
He said the CP Railway official appeared to understand and agree with the need for the improvement project and promised to raise the issue with his supervisors during a conference call scheduled for this week. Zorn will wait to hear more from CP Railway before finalizing the Phase IV plans for the Scenic Lake Road.
“I would love to include that next 1.4 miles of the South Lake Road [in the 2013 budget],” he said.
Visitors welcome to enjoy
fall colors on the refuge
In other news from the Des Lacs NWR, Zorn said crews would begin fluming the culverts installed last summer along the Boat Dock Road.
The placement of several culverts on or near that road led to erosion problems last spring as the snow melted. According to Zorn, the culverts will be buried underground to prevent water from running across the soil’s surface. Re-seeding efforts should be more successful then.
Refuge visitors are welcome to enjoy the fall colors along the Boat Dock Road during the coming weeks. The Canada Goose Trail is also open to vehicles through September 28th, starting at the trailhead on the west edge of Kenmare along Ward County 2.
The trail is open daily from 5 am to 10 pm. Traffic is one-way only from south to north, because the road is too narrow for safe two-way travel, and is only open to automobile, bicycle and foot traffic. The six-mile Canada Goose Trail exits on U.S. Highway 52 north of Kenmare.
Visitors using the trail are required to keep travel to the gravel, two-track trail. All-terrain vehicles are prohibited. Many pull-offs are available where visitors can use binoculars and spotting scopes for wildlife observation.
Zorn also noted refuge staff members are currently planning the popular “Haunted Hayride” activity on the refuge for kids and their parents in October. More information about the date and time for the event will be announced in The Kenmare News.
Lostwood Auto Tour
Route to be resurfaced
With improvements finished to the Des Lacs NWR’s Scenic Lake Road, construction crews have turned their attention to work on a seven-mile stretch of the Lostwood NWR’s Auto Tour Route.
According to refuge manager Kori Richardson, the Auto Tour Route will be closed to the public Monday through Friday each week, but will be open to drivers on the weekends.
“When the contractors are working, there are ‘Road Closed’ signs in place,” he said.
The improvements to the road include minor reshaping of the embankment, resurfacing the road with gravel and the addition of a few turn-outs and parking areas to better accommodate refuge visitors on the narrow roadway.
“They anticipate being done in mid- to late-October,” said Richardson. He asked drivers to travel carefully at the refuge during the coming weeks. “There will be quite a bit of truck traffic on the refuge, hauling gravel,” he said, “and on the weekends, visitors should use additional caution when driving through the construction area.”
Anyone with further questions about the road improvement projects on the Des Lacs and Lostwood refuges should contact Zorn at 701-385-4046 ext. 225 or Richardson at 701-848-2722.