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Construction begins . . . The old wooden bridge at the Brick Yard road
is now a pile of rubble (foreground) after demolition last week.
Heavy equipment sets at the site where construction of a new bridge is underway.
The historic Brick Yard was located about three miles south of Kenmare
in the valley seen in the background of the photo. A brick-making plant
was established there in 1897, with about 30 families living and
working on the location during the height of production.
By Caroline Downs
A project to repair the Brickyard Road on the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge has closed the Scenic Auto Tour Route along the refuge south of Kenmare.
The contract includes replacing a wooden bridge that spans the Des Lacs River and grading, re-building and re-surfacing the 0.75 mile stretch of road that runs west to the base of Brickyard Hill.
Des Lacs NWR manager Chad Zorn announced the road closure last week, which came as something of a surprise. “We didn’t want to close the road down and we didn’t think we were going to have to do that,” he said, “but once we saw how they had to lay their equipment out for the project, we had no choice.”
The equipment includes a crane that will be moved to the site on Friday. The crane will be used to place the pilings needed for the new bridge, according to Zorn.
The Lake Road will be closed from a point immediately south of Kenmare to the Munch’s Coulee Nature Trail. Refuge visitors can access the road from the south off U.S. Highway 52 at the bottom of Baden Hill and drive to the Nature Trail if they wish.
Zorn expected the road to remain closed until the project is completed in mid-November. Work on the project actually began early, with the old bridge already removed. New 16” pipe in 50-foot sections stacked at the location will be used to maintain flow through the channel during construction operations.
“They told me they weren’t going to start until after Labor Day, but they got here a couple weeks early,” he said.
Pro-Mark Services, Inc. of West Fargo was awarded the contract for $1.45 million, which also includes a concurrent road project at Sully’s Hill National Game Preserve at Devils Lake. The contract is considered Phase IV of the multi-year project coordinated between the Federal Highways Administration and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to improve the entire Lake Road.
Zorn described the condition of the former wooden bridge as fairly sound, despite its rickety appearance. “If anybody’s been down there lately, it’s a pretty scary-looking bridge,” he said. “They said four to six piers in each line of piers were seeing some substantial rot.”
Although the road closure and construction work may interfere with early season hunters on the refuge, the repairs should be a major improvement for drivers on the refuge. Zorn said the road will remain gravel, and care will be taken to maintain the same elevation of the current road.
“We will not be building up that road,” he said. “That would create another dike holding back more water, and that’s not what we want there.”
Visitors and hunters who are accustomed to entering Tasker’s Coulee from the east side will notice an expanded wetland at the mouth of the coulee when the project is complete. “We’re actually losing wetland acres because of the new wing walls that will be installed for the bridge,” said Zorn.
He explained the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires any wetland loss on this type of project be mitigated, so a new impoundment spanning about 0.8 acres will be established at the mouth of Tasker’s Coulee. “We’re going to enhance and deepen an existing wetland there,” he said. “This will catch more runoff in the spring.”
Work on the new wetland will take place at the same time as the road repair activity.
Zorn said the final 1.4 miles of the Lake Road, beginning from the Kenmare city limits, have already been surveyed for Phase V of the road rebuilding project. However, right-of-way and ownership issues with Canadian-Pacific Railway have delayed the engineering work and bidding for that aspect of the project.
“We’re currently working with the railroad on that,” said Zorn, adding that he still hopes to bid the last phase during the spring of 2014.
For further information about the Brickyard Road repair project or the current road closure, contact Zorn at 701-385-4046 ext. 225 Monday through Friday between 7:30 am and 4:30 pm.