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ND Parks & Rec Connection May 2021 Newsletter

Message from our Director

Director Andrea Travnicek pictured at the Wild Outdoor Women event at Lake Metigoshe State Park, experiencing Maple Sugaring Day at Fort Stevenson State Park, and visiting Grahams Island State Park.

As this weekend officially kicks off the full-service camping season, we wanted to let all of our partners know we appreciate your support for North Dakota state parks and welcome you to the state parks and state recreation areas this summer. So far this year, visitation numbers and camping numbers continue to trend toward another busy year. We are excited that the public continues to choose North Dakota state parks as part of their recreation and travel destinations.

At the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, we are committed to providing the infrastructure, natural resources, and modern amenities that our visitors are looking for as they recreate and stay at the state parks. We are able to provide those resources by working with legislators, state and local partners, federal partners, organizations, associations, business entities, and through the collection of fees that are invested back into the state parks.

During the 67th Legislative Session, the Department continuously reiterated the importance of funding for infrastructure investments for deferred maintenance, capital projects, and modernized improvements. The proposed budget included $9.88 million through bonding for seasonal and Park Ranger housing; marina repairs; utility upgrades; lagoon studies and enhancements; and fiber upgrades. Also included was a proposal to utilize $10 million of Legacy Fund earnings to assist with reducing the $74 million-dollar deferred maintenance backlog related to buildings, roadways, and shorelines across the state parks. Two grant programs were in the proposed budget with $20.6 million for park district infrastructure grants through bonding and $10 million for a State Park Matching Grant program if Legacy Fund earnings exceed $505 million on June 30, 2021.

Ultimately, in working with the Legislative Assembly, the Department’s 21-23 final budget includes $7.9 million in federal funds derived from the federal coronavirus capital projects fund for deferred maintenance and capital projects and $816,400 in federal dollars from the same fund for a State Park Matching Grant program. This matching grant program will be for capital project improvements at state parks subject to the Department obtaining matching funds from nonstate sources for each project on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The Department will work with the Office of Management and Budget, as directed, to ensure the use of funding complies with federal guidance for the federal coronavirus capital projects. The Department looks forward to getting started on several projects throughout the state park system once that guidance is received and to revisiting previous partnerships and creating new partnerships to maximize the new state park matching grant program. The Department would like to thank the Legislative Assembly for their hard work and commitment to North Dakota state parks this legislative session.

If you are visiting the state parks this summer, you will see that we have several infrastructure projects that are being wrapped up and several that will be starting. If you would like to learn more about the projects or how you can be involved with future projects don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any of the team. This summer we will also continue our 12 Months-12 Hikes Challenge throughout the state park system and the Adventure Challenge that seeks to get you outside and visiting various parts of the state park properties that you may not have visited before. In addition, the Department will be unveiling a new North Dakota Passport program that may be familiar to visitors who participate in or have heard about the U.S. National Park Service Passport Program. This new state program is a partnership with the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department and the State Historical Society of North Dakota that encourages individuals and families to explore areas of North Dakota to learn about the history, cultural, and recreational opportunities that can be found throughout the state and receive a stamp after doing so. We invite you to Be Bold, Be Adventurous, Be North Dakota Legendary! See you at a state park soon!

- Andrea Travnicek, Ph.D., Director

Leave a legacy by donating a tree, volunteering, or applying for a grant! Click for current volunteer opportunities.

PROJECT UPDATES

Off-Highway Vehicle Strategic Plan

There is no doubt that parks and recreation play a vital role in North Dakota’s future, supporting economic vitality, workforce recruitment and retention, and improving community health. In looking specifically at the future of the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department's (NDPRD) Off-Highway Vehicle program, it was important to develop a strategic roadmap for growth. NDPRD partnered with a consultant to complete analysis, stakeholder meetings, surveys, century code review, evaluation of existing OHV resources, and a comparison of adjacent state OHV programs. These efforts resulted in an Off-Highway Vehicle Strategic Plan.

The strategic plan provides the Department the ability to better understand the North Dakota OHV audience, identify opportunities to increase awareness of OHV recreation in our state, and facilitate partnerships with other stakeholders. The plan lays out short-term, mid-term, and long-term strategic action items, many of which are already being acted on including:

  • Expanding riding opportunities across the state
  • Developing brochures to provide critical information to users
  • Developing new maps to promote designated riding areas
  • Increasing stakeholder engagements and law enforcement presence
  • Partnering with North Dakota Game and Fish to provide a suitable trailhead facility for the Rough Rider Trail

As the OHV market continues to grow, NDPRD seeks to create meaningful destinations that continue to connect people and places while celebrating and protecting our diverse natural resources. This will be achieved by facilitating partnerships and providing programs that encourage people to Ride ND First.

Traffic Counter Pilot Project Underway

The 66th Legislative Assembly included dollars for the start of a new traffic counter system, which is currently being installed at 11 North Dakota state parks. The updated traffic counters will be part of a two-year pilot program to test the system and gather more accurate data.

The previous traffic counter technology at most NDPRD properties is outdated and requires manual collection of data. This new optical technology will allow the department to understand customer patterns by assigning a short-term unique identifier for each user as they pass through the entrance areas. Traffic counters are the primary method of establishing a visitor count for 15 destination properties, and the accuracy of this data is important for the Department to staff accordingly and make budget and planning decisions.

Meet the New Park Managers

The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department (NDPRD) celebrated the retirements of many long-term staff members this spring, which opened career advancement opportunities for others. Three current NDPRD employees have accepted new roles within the Department. Erik Dietrich, Eric Lang, and Terry Mitchell will bring their depth of experience and leadership to park manager positions across the state. As these individuals relocate, we hope you join us in saying congratulations and giving them a warm welcome to their new parks and communities!

Erik Dietrich, Eric Lang, and Terry Mitchell

Erik Dietrich, Park Manager – Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

After completing his degree in Forestry, Erik Dietrich spent three years as a seasonal employee at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park before working for the Bismarck Park District as Park Operations Foreman. Erik joined NDPRD full-time in 2006 and served as Motorized Recreation Coordinator until 2019 when he became the Assistant Park Manager at Cross Ranch State Park. Erik brings his broad knowledge of park operations and maintenance and to his new position as Park Manager at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.

Eric Lang, Park Manager – Lake Metigoshe State Park

Eric Lang holds a degree in Natural Resources Management and after working at several wildlife refuges, he began his career with the NDPRD at Fort Stevenson State Park in 2005. Lang has been the Park Manager at Cross Ranch State Park since 2006 and has transitioned to his new role of Park Manager at Lake Metigoshe State Park.

Terry Mitchell, Park Manager – Cross Ranch State Park

Terry Mitchell began his career with NDPRD in 2015 at Sully Creek State Park where he held Park Ranger and Site Supervisor positions. He moved to Fort Ransom State Park as a Long Term Seasonal in 2016 and became Site Supervisor of Beaver Lake State Park in 2018. Mitchell has a bachelor’s degree in Conservation Management and has volunteered at local fire departments near each park he’s worked in. Terry has assumed his new role of Park Manager at Cross Ranch State Park as of early May.

RECREATION ASSET VIEWER

The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department recently completed an asset inventory project for its 15 destination properties. During the 2018-2022 strategic planning process, the agency identified the need to inventory all the park system assets. This project came to fruition due to funds provided in the 66th Legislative Assembly.

The department hired Houston Engineering to inventory and geo-locate all the agencies' on-the-ground assets, establish a geographic information system (GIS) database, and develop an online “web viewer” for the park system. The inventory includes photos of each asset geo-located, which includes, not limited to: buildings, bridges, fishing piers, playground equipment, signage, camping pads, fire rings, and picnic shelters. The data collected will eventually feed into asset lifecycle replacement spreadsheets for each park and provide detailed information for budget forecasting, data-driven decisions, and total park ownership cost.

A custom search is also programmed into the application. For example, users could search for all the campsites that provide specific utilities and types. As the data continues to be enriched, more search functions will be added. The department is currently working with its reservation system company to integrate this data into their program to give customers a better understanding of the amenities available to them when choosing a campsite.

Community Partnerships

Friends Groups Play Important Role

Many projects and events in state parks are made possible by friends groups and foundations. There are six friends groups or foundations in the North Dakota state parks system. These groups support their parks in a variety of ways including fundraising, promoting parks, participating in special events, completing projects in the park, purchasing equipment and supplies, and much more.

Friends groups are largely volunteer based. They may be working behind the scenes, but play a major role in a park's success. Consider joining a group or starting one in a park without a group.

Recreational Trails Program Now Accepting Applications

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant cycle is open May 3 – May 31. The RTP is an 80/20 matching grant program that provides funding for motorized and non-motorized recreational trail projects. This program is administered at the state level through the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department with guidance from the Recreational Trails Program Advisory Council (RTPAC), and federally through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This year, the applications have been moved to a new online platform, Web Grants.

Applicants may request grant amounts ranging from a minimum of $10,000 up to a maximum of $250,000, and project sponsors must have at least 20% match available at the time of the application. Eligible projects consist of constructing new recreation trails; restoration of existing trails; development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages; purchase and lease of recreational trail construction and maintenance equipment; land acquisition/easements; and trail accessibility assessment.

For more information, contact Char Langehaug, Grants Coordinator, at 701-328-5357.

NOW HIRING

Every year, the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department offers a variety of rewarding seasonal positions during the summer months. We're seeking individuals to play an important role in providing quality, memorable experiences for our visitors and maintaining our park trails and infrastructure. Featured job openings include:

On the Horizon

Fort Stevenson State Park Campground Project

Visitors to Fort Stevenson State Park can look forward to expanded camping options in 2022 with an additional 23 full-service camping sites. After completing necessary planning and permitting steps, NDPRD received bids on building a new campground loop at Fort Stevenson State Park on April 23. A bid has been accepted, and the project is moving into the contracting phase, with construction expected to be completed by the end of October 2021. The new campsites will be similar to Fort Stevenson’s North Loop offering sewer, water, and electrical hookups and are expected to be available to campers in May 2022.

North Dakota Passport

North Dakota visitors and residents alike can look forward to the launch of an exciting new program this summer. With the North Dakota Passport, individuals can explore 37 unique destinations in four regions of the state, documenting their travels by collecting stamps and memories along the way. Information on all of North Dakota's state parks and many state historic sites has been combined to create one guide that encourages visitors to get the most out of their travels by learning fun facts and taking part in must-see attractions.

This project is a collaborative effort between the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department and State Historical Society of North Dakota. Watch for the North Dakota Passport to go on sale starting in June!

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