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ND Parks & Rec Connection October 2020 Newsletter

Message from our Director

Director Andrea Travnicek participated in the self-guided Fall Colors Hike at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Follow along with her adventures on Instagram @ndparks_directortrav.

Welcome to the first edition of the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department’s (NDPRD) Connection newsletter. With the addition of this newsletter, we hope to keep partners informed on current state park happenings, build new and strengthen existing partnerships, and identify opportunities to collaborate on initiatives that empower people, improve lives, and inspire success. North Dakota state parks are made up of unique landscapes, picturesque views, recreational wonderlands, and a variety of natural resources and cultural aspects that give visitors a sense of place and an opportunity to truly be North Dakota legendary.

As the new Director, I have spent my first four months learning the agency and meeting the staff throughout the state. I have also been identifying areas that could lead to a greater awareness of what the North Dakota state parks have to offer and the number of resources that go into managing them. The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act this summer has laid a national foundation for maintaining infrastructure associated with public recreation areas and provides a permanent funding source for conservation and recreation opportunities across the country. The passage of this Act is important to the conservation and recreation communities in the state of North Dakota, and NDPRD will continue to administer the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funds that are provided to eligible project sponsors.

COVID-19 has provided some challenges for state park operations but has also led to new, innovative ideas and an increase in outdoor recreation enthusiasts visiting our parks statewide. North Dakota state parks have become places where individuals and families can recreate responsibly in a social distancing environment and find time for physical activity or a mental reprieve. The park staff have remained steadfast while making adjustments where necessary to ensure the safety of visitors. NDPRD has truly appreciated everyone’s patience as we continue to adapt to changing conditions and still provide an enjoyable and safe experience. Take the time to thank the great state park staff if you have the chance.

This winter, NDPRD will promote outdoor activities while preparing for and engaging in the 67th Legislative Session. Priorities for the Department will center around return on investments, workforce, recreation opportunities, multi-use, access, and most importantly, partnerships. NDPRD cannot operate and provide the diverse amenities that the public is looking for without all our partners. We look forward to working with all of you as challenges arise and new opportunities are presented. If you have concerns or questions, do not hesitate to contact the staff or myself. And by all means, if you are looking to get outside to find a trail this winter, let me know; I would love to join you…six feet away!

- Andrea Travnicek, Director

Project Updates

Wifi Registration Stations

We recently equipped all of our parks with WiFi registration stations, allowing visitors to make online reservations or purchase entrance permits onsite with ease. North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department (NDPRD) identified the need to provide alternative options for registration when face-to-face isn't available. Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to adapt and provide this safe and convenient option for our customers.

Look for the new WiFi signs near park entrances or visitor centers and log on to parkrec.nd.gov to reserve a campsite or purchase an annual or daily permit.

Asset Inventory

North Dakota Parks and Recreation has begun an asset inventory project to collect park data that is critical for the Department’s planning efforts. This project is possible due to funds provided in the 66th Legislative Assembly. Houston Engineering was hired to inventory and geo-locate all the assets in the 13 state parks starting in May 2020, and the firm is now developing an online GIS database for the park system that contains all assets, such as bridges, fishing piers, playground equipment and picnic shelters.

This important tool will provide the public, park managers and maintenance personnel with easy access to accurate information about all the assets in each park. While the project focuses on aboveground features, the goal is to also map underground assets including utilities. This data will eventually feed into asset lifecycle replacement spreadsheets for each park, providing detailed information for budget forecasting, data-driven decisions and total cost of park ownership.

On a statewide planning level, a future phase of this project involves collaborating with statewide partner agencies' asset databases to streamline comprehensive planning efforts.

Sully Creek State Park Electrical

In August, we were excited to share that our electrical hookup installation project at Sully Creek State Park was complete! Visitors can now enjoy upgraded campsites with electrical hookups at 38 sites located in the Whitetail Flats Campground and Little Muddy Breaks Campground.

Our team works hard to continually assess and meet the needs of our visitors, and this is just one example of our efforts to enhance the camping experience. Next time you visit to horseback ride, kayak the Little Missouri River or bike the Maah Daah Hey Trail, we hope you'll enjoy a stay in the park.

The AmeriCorps NCC Elm 5 team volunteered their time to clean up trash at Lake Metigoshe State Park.

New Volunteer Program Rolls Out

A new, expanded volunteer program offers individuals and groups the opportunity to volunteer their time and talents to our state parks, recreation areas and natural areas. Whether you're interested in helping with vehicle or trail maintenance or volunteering in the visitor center, a meaningful volunteer experience can be tailored to your special skill set. The program's goal is to cultivate partnerships between community members and park staff as they work together for the betterment of their parks and individual and community well-being.

“Volunteering can have many benefits including opportunities to connect with others, learning new skills and even reducing stress. We're excited to offer expanded volunteer opportunities at a time when it's even more important for people to focus on their physical and mental health and can do so in a park environment," said Andrea Travnicek, Director of the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department. "We hope many individuals will see the program as a chance to safely participate in an activity that not only benefits their personal well-being but the health and vibrancy of their community as well."

Whether you’re an individual with only a few hours to spare or a small group that would like to return on a recurring basis, those interested can apply online or contact Lynn Spomer for more information at 701-328-5357 or LSpomer@nd.gov.

The ND Parks and Recreation Department continues to work with local and state health officials to provide a safe experience at our parks that minimizes the risk of exposure to COVID-19. The department encourages all volunteers to follow the CDC's recommendations on social distancing and personal hygiene.

Community Partnerships

OHV & Snowmobile Safety

The NDPRD Motorized Recreation division conducted 13 in-person off-highway vehicle (OHV) safety certification courses serving 111 students from June–October 2020. Nearly 200 students completed the online version of the course. New to the program this year was a youth helmet program where we replaced existing helmets as necessary or provided a new helmet to those not in possession of one. We remain grateful to the Jake Star Foundation and Farm Safety for Kids for their continued support.

This year we welcomed several new partnerships into the safety program including the Cass County Sheriff’s Department, the North Dakota Highway Patrol, the Divide County Sheriff’s Department, and the Beulah Police Department. NDPRD is committed to improving the safe operation of OHVs across the state and will continue to develop new partnerships for our youth program.

As the OHV season comes to an end, our snowmobile safety program begins to gain momentum. This year we will begin conducting our in-person snowmobile safety course in November in addition to the online safety course option.

Grant Program Opportunities

The pre-application period for the FY20 Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is now open through Thursday, October 29. The purpose of a preliminary application is for eligible grant sponsors to outline potential projects and have them reviewed by NDPRD before the full application is open from November 1-30.

Eligible project sponsors include cities, counties and townships; park and school districts; state agencies; water management districts and federally recognized tribes. The LWCF provides grants for outdoor recreation projects such as ball fields, pools, campgrounds, playgrounds and land acquisitions for park development.

Arlen Gartner (City Board President) and Grant Johnson (City Clerk) hold the LWCF sign next to the finished playground in Kenmare, ND.

Completing a preliminary application is not required in order to apply during the full application process, but it is highly recommended. An online LWCF grant workshop will also be available to assist project sponsors.

On the Horizon

Customer & Community Surveys

NDPRD recently conducted a request for proposal seeking a vendor to conduct and report findings of a state park visitor survey and economic impact study. As visitors’ needs continue to evolve, and previous economic impact studies and visitor satisfaction surveys have become outdated, there is a need to gather updated data. This project was allocated funds in the last legislative session, allowing us to meet this need.

Results of this study would inform future planning, development, marketing and management efforts called for in the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. In addition, NDPRD plans to conduct a community perception study to further understand the local perception and knowledge about state parks to identify potential partnerships with communities to encourage tourism, recreation, education and economic development.

The knowledge gained from these studies will be invaluable, aiding the Department in carrying out our mission to offer a diversity of recreation opportunities and sustainably manage resources.

Pembina Gorge Campground

In alignment with the Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area (PGSRA) master plan, the Department is moving forward with designing an off-highway vehicle (OHV) campground. This new capital development is aimed at targeting OHV visitors to the scenic Pembina Gorge trail system. The agency has hired SRF Engineers as the design professionals of record. SRF Engineers has taken the first steps to affirm the compatibility of the land with the design program and are conducting an engineering survey. The layout will be designed through the upcoming winter season.

The engineering phase of this project was allocated funds in the last legislative session. Future development will require continued local, state and federal partnerships along with additional funds. Stay tuned as this project develops!

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