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Two celebrations in 1 at Tamarac

It’s a celebration so big, it couldn’t all be contained in one day.

The Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge is getting ready to observe not only its 75th anniversary, but also the grand opening of a new 21-mile segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail that runs through Becker County.

“It’s really two celebrations in one,” explained Neil Powers, manager of Tamarac NWR. “But the North Country Trail grand opening is by far our highlight of the weekend.”

The two-day celebration begins on Friday, May 31, with a presentation by famed Minnesota naturalist, photographer and guide book author Stan Tekiela at Frazee High School, and concludes on Saturday, June 1 with a ribbon cutting, cake, program and a series of themed hikes at the Tamarac Refuge itself.

The official opening of the 43,000-acre Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge was on May 31, 1938, Powers noted, but they decided to do the official celebration, with cake, on June 1.

Friday’s presentation by Stan Tekiela is actually being sponsored by the North Country Trail Association (NCTA). Beginning at 7 p.m. in the Frazee High School Gymnasium, Tekiela will be presenting a program on “The Lives of the Wolf, Coyote and Fox.” The program is free and open to the public.

Then on Saturday — which also happens to be National Trails Day — Tamarac and the NCTA’s Laurentian Lakes Chapter are joining forces to present a series of guided hikes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., on trails located throughout the Refuge. Each hike will be focused on a different theme, Powers noted.

“The first hike is a ‘Trek Across Tamarac’ starting at 8 a.m.,” Powers said. “Participants will have the opportunity to start at one end of the Refuge and walk all the way across, from east to west.”

Participants in the 14½-mile hike will gather at the 400th Avenue Trail Head, where a shuttle will take them to where the hike begins, then bring them back to the trail head when they’re finished. This hike will be led by a wildlife biologist, and follows the North Country Trail itself.

Those interested in signing up for this long hike should contact Matthew Davis at 701-388-1883.

All other hikes will embark from the Pine Lake Boat Access, the headquarters for the day’s festivities. The access is located just off Becker County Road 29, about six miles north of State Highway 34 and just 14 miles northeast of Detroit Lakes.

“There will be a history hike, a photography hike, a wildflower hike, a kids’ hike and more,” Powers said.

A one-hour birding hike embarks from the pine lake parking area at 9 a.m.

A short, family-friendly “Taste of the Trail” hike will be offered at 11 a.m., leaving right from the ribbon cutting ceremony, which begins at 10 a.m. and will be followed by the serving of a cake in honor of the Refuge’s 75th anniversary.

Also at 11 a.m., interested participants are invited to take a shuttle from the event headquarters at Pine Lake to the Tamarac Lake access, for a three-mile “History Hike” that will cover some of the area’s fascinating people of the past. 

At noon a hike offering tips for using GPS will depart the Pine Lake parking lot for a two-mile loop around Tamarac Lake.

At 1 p.m., participants in a “Photography Safari” hike will leave the event headquarters on a bus, for a driving tour that will stop at a couple of places along the new trail for some great wildlife photography opportunities. This tour will conclude by 4 p.m.

Parents interested in learning more about hiking with their kids should meet at the Old Indian Trailhead at 2 p.m., for a group hike where family hiking tips will be shared.

Finally, at 3 p.m., a one-mile “Wildflower Hike” will depart from the event headquarters, returning no later than 4 p.m.

“The day is really focused on the North Country National Scenic Trail and the many opportunities to experience that trail right here on the Refuge,” Powers said.

However, 75th anniversary souvenirs, field guides and children’s items will be available for sale at the Friends of Tamarac Gift Shop booth at the Pine Lake event headquarters.

Attendees should look for event signs along Highway 29 and may stop in at the headquarters tent from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to learn more about specific event activities, the North Country Trail, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, how to report wildlife sightings on the Refuge, or to purchase various commemorative souvenirs and other gift items from the Friends of Tamarac.

The refuge’s 75th anniversary will also be highlighted during the annual Tamarac Fall Festival on Oct. 5.

North Country Trail

The North Country National Scenic Trail is a 4,600 mile trail that journeys from the Adirondack Mountains of New York to the plains of North Dakota.

The newly completed trail segment in Becker County runs from Greenwater Lake Scientific and Natural Area south through Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge and is an extension a contiguous 150-mile segment heading north from County Highway 35 and then east to Itasca State Park and, ultimately, to Remer in Cass County.

This new segment in Becker County represents a significant advancement for the North Country Trail in Minnesota and is the result of the efforts of the NCTA-Laurentian Lakes Chapter volunteers; two Legacy trail grants obtained by Becker County; and a great partnership between the NCTA, Becker County, Minnesota DNR, two private landowners who host the NCT on their land, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Tamarac Refuge history

On June 2, 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed the establishment of Tamarac Migratory Waterfowl Refuge.

Up until 1941, the northern half of the proposed refuge made great strides in development which included patrol roads, trails, bridges, buildings, fire towers, water control structures, and habitat improvements which among many included the construction and set up of 800 wood duck boxes!

The southern half of the proposed refuge was still in private ownership, consisting mostly of holdings belonging to hunting clubs and individual hunters. The controversy over obtaining these lands would last over 20 years.

World War II and the passage of the “governor’s consent” law put a long hold on any further land acquisition. This law prevented the federal government from acquiring land within the southern half of the proposed Refuge boundaries.

In 1954, State Senator Norman Walz and State Representative Harry Basford  introduced a bill which would rescind the governor’s consent law. The bill passed quietly, and with little fanfare — but there was yet another stumbling block in the road for refuge supporters.

Under a treaty with Canada, the Migratory Bird Commission was required to approve all land acquisitions for migratory bird refuges. At this time, the commission did not consent to the proposed land acquisitions. It wasn’t until 1958, at the urging of Minnesota congresswoman Coya Knutson, that the MBC finally ordered completion of the refuge.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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