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Work on lower lake road to begin soon

Use of the Scenic Lake Road on the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge both north and south of Kenmare remains a “good news, bad news” scenario, according to refuge manager Chad Zorn.

8/31/11 (Wed)


Use of the Scenic Lake Road on the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge both north and south of Kenmare remains a “good news, bad news” scenario, according to refuge manager Chad Zorn.


The good news is that the south portion of the auto tour route, from downtown Kenmare to the bottom of Baden Hill, is open with all damages repaired.


Several stretches of that road were underwater after the high runoff and rainfall totals during the spring and early summer, while other portions of the road were damaged by erosion or sinkholes.


Drivers have been able to travel on the road safely and enjoy views of the southern end of the refuge, but only for another few days.


“After Labor Day, Pro-Mark Services, Inc., of West Fargo will be here for general rehabilitation of the road,” Zorn said.


The work is part of larger project to pave the southern portion of the Scenic Lake Road. Beginning in September, Phase II of the project will start, with a 1.1 mile stretch of road scheduled for widening, grading, regraveling and box culvert replacement in preparation for paving during a later phase.


Estimated cost of Phase II of the project is $884,158.88, paid through Federal Highway Administration Project funds.


Phase I of the project was completed in 2009, beginning at the southern end of the road and working north.


“Phase II will start where they left off in 2009,” said Zorn. “They’ll work north to just past the parking area for Munch’s Coulee.”


The work is expected to be completed within two months. “For that period of time, that section only will be completely closed to traffic,” Zorn explained. “Visitors can drive in from the south along that first mile or north from Kenmare down to where the crews are working.”


According to Zorn, Phase III of the project is being planned for 2012, with three and a half miles of road remaining. No further details were available at this time.


The road will be opened to the public again as soon as Phase II is finished, but drivers are reminded no winter maintenance is done on the Scenic Lake Road.


Boat Dock Road

remains closed

The worst news delivered by Zorn is that the Boat Dock Road, or northern half of the Scenic Lake Road, remains closed. “I don’t foresee that being open at all in the near future,” he said. “CP Railway is working with the refuge to repair the Boat Dock Road.”


The repairs resulted from high water as well as damages from heavy equipment used to repair CP Railway tracks displaced by the sloughing hillsides last spring. Zorn said three sections of track affected by hillside slumping have been or will be repaired, with two additional sites CP Rail would like to address yet during the fall months.


The track repair work has caused significant damage to refuge habitat. “Negotiations continue with CP Rail about rehabbing the areas that were impacted on the refuge,” Zorn said.


One part of those negotiations involves the road repair, which started at the northern end of the road and progresses south. “They’re about halfway right now,” said Zorn. “When it’s done, we’ll have a better road than we’ve ever seen up there. It will be wider with new ditches and new culverts, and they’re improved the boat ramp, too.”


Harris Construction of Kenmare, who assisted CP Rail with the track repairs, is now handling the Boat Dock Road project. Repairs began in late June and are expected to continue through the remaining weeks of the construction season, as weather allows.


The repair work actually began outside the refuge boundaries at the junction with Ward County Road 1. Barricades are in place at both ends of the Boat Dock Road to warn the public about the closure.


“The entire road is considered closed and the public is asked to stay off the road,” Zorn said, adding that the closure was intended for motorized vehicles as well as foot traffic and off-road vehicles such as ATVs. “We have heavy equipment, dump trucks and excavators up and down that road, and it’s just not safe.”


Zorn understood the public’s frustration with the lack of access to the Boat Dock Road this summer. “But when we have a finished product, it will be worth the wait,” he said.


Anyone with questions about road closures or access on the refuge is welcome to contact Zorn or Jennifer Jewett at 701-385-4046 during office hours.


New residence

planned for refuge
A condemned residence near the refuge headquarters will be demolished to make way for construction of a new house. “We’ve been approved to build a new residence on the refuge,” Zorn said. “McMillen Construction, LLC, was awarded the bid for demolition of the old residence and construction of the new.”


The McMillen bid also included construction of a new refuge residence at the Crosby Wetland Management District, with a total cost of $682,037.00 for the projects.


Zorn said the house at the Des Lacs refuge, built in the 1930s and since remodeled, was last used by former refuge manager Dan Severson and his family in the late 1990s.


“It was condemned with mold, asbestos and lead paint,” said Zorn, “and we were unable to remedy the problems.”


The new building will offer 1800 square feet of living space, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The residence will be used to house refuge personnel.


Public programs and

a Facebook page

Jennifer Jewett, education and outreach coordinator at the Des Lacs NWR, wanted the public to be aware of several events and opportunities at the refuge during the fall and early winter months:


The Canada Goose Trail along the west side of the Middle Des Lacs Lake, running north of Kenmare, will be open for vehicle travel and wildlife observation from mid- to late-September.


National Wildlife Refuge Week will be celebrated October 10-16, and November will be the deadline for a photography contest highlighting images from the Des Lacs NWR.


The annual Christmas Bird Count will be held in December. A new feature this year will be the Kids’ Christmas Bird Count, complete with fun projects and activities for the youngest birders in the area.


The second annual Let’s Go Snowshoeing! program is already being planned for January, with snowshoes made available for kids and adults who want to experience the Des Lacs refuge in the winter season.


“Look for releases in The Kenmare News for more information about these upcoming events,” Jewett said.


With a new page now created for “Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge,” she also invited the public to enjoy the refuge on Facebook.


“For up-to-date information about wildlife sightings, accessibility, and refuge events and programs, ‘like’ us on Facebook!” she said.