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Paving begins on portion of Scenic Lake Road

News from the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge at Kenmare was mixed last week, with progress seen on two major refuge construction projects but repeated vandalism reported at both the Boat Dock area and Tasker’s Coulee.

9/02/09 (Wed)


News from the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge at Kenmare was mixed last week, with progress seen on two major refuge construction projects but repeated vandalism reported at both the Boat Dock area and Tasker’s Coulee.


Refuge manager Dave Bolin said work was going well along the first mile of the Lower Lake Road south of town. “They’re almost done with the subgrade,” he said, adding that the road base was raised and widened, with culverts installed. “The next step is for the gravel to be laid. They’ll start delivering gravel [this] week.”


Bolin said graveling the first mile was expected to be finished by October. “The plan is to complete all of the road base and gravel before pavement,” he said.


The National Recreational Trail at Munch’s Coulee is also being upgraded this summer, with the trail nearly ready for new gravel. “Almost a quarter mile of that will be paved, up to the first bench,” said Bolin. The improvements will make the trail handicapped accessible, the only such designated trail on the refuge. Bolin said the trail should be finished by early October.


These portions of the Lower Lake Road project have been funded completely by the stimulus funds provided by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act through the federal highway administration in conjunction with the state scenic backway system. A new ARRA sign has been erected near the project site that drivers may notice as they travel on U.S. Highway 52 south of Kenmare.


Cost for the 2009 work is estimated at just over $900,000. According to Bolin, the Des Lacs NWR received about 10 percent of the $10 million allocated nationwide this year to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for refuge road projects. “The plan is to keep going [with the rest of the road],” he said. “That’s contingent on funding.”


Marion Trucking & Construction of Dunseith has the contract for the project.


Travelers have been prevented from driving the Lower Lake Road for most of the summer. Bolin asked drivers in the construction area to use caution. “We’ll keep up the road block signs for safety reasons until they finish graveling,” he said.


New water
control structures

The waterfowl and shorebirds that tend to congregate in the refuge’s southern water units do not appear to be bothered by the noise and disturbance of the road construction. In fact, pools 6 and 7 have seen heavy waterfowl use recently. “They’re both in the draw down stage, which concentrates the invertebrates in the water,” Bolin said. “It’s ‘duck soup.’”


Refuge personnel are in the process of replacing water control structures originally built in the 1930s for two marsh units. “These have been in the planning stages for five years” said Bolin. “Unit 6 is about 75 percent done, but Unit 4 has not been started yet. We’re moving equipment now to do that. Overall, the project is going well, with just a few delays because of the rain.”


He noted the improvements to the water control structures may not be readily apparent to area residents and refuge visitors. “We won’t be holding back any more water than we did before,” he said. “We’re replacing them with more functional structures.”


Vandalism mars

popular refuge sites

While the projects have been progressing well, refuge staff members have had to direct their attention to vandalism problems at the Boat Dock area north of Kenmare and Tasker’s Coulee south of town. “There’s been four or five separate events,” Bolin said.


Reported damage includes the theft of garbage cans, littering, breaking lights and grassy areas torn up by tire tracks. “This has occurred during July and August,” said Bolin. “Some of it is happening during the weekdays, and also some weekends.”


The refuge closes to public use each night at 10 pm, all year long. Bolin asked for assistance in locating the perpetrators. “If anyone observes any suspicious activities, call the refuge headquarters,” he said. “Most likely, it’s a select group of people involved.”


He noted that the Boat Dock and Tasker’s Coulee have both had a steady flow of visitors this summer. “They get more use than I thought they would,” he said. “Most people take pride in and respect the public use areas.”


Currently, USFWS law enforcement personnel are handling the situation. “If it continues, we’ll have to get more aggressive in our investigation,” Bolin said.


He admitted the destructive incidents left him discouraged. “We put a lot of time and resources into [Tasker’s Coulee and the Boat Docks],” he said. “Vandalism like this detracts from the quality experiences most people have in those areas.”


Anyone who wants to contact Bolin about the vandalism situation should call him at the Des Lacs NWR headquarters, 701-385-4046.