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DL' s wildest park

In Sucker Creek Preserve, the new Detroit Lakes park, nature is what it's all about.

"To restore, preserve and maintain the native biodiversity of Sucker Creek Preserve for the education and enjoyment of all visitors."

This is the mission statement of the board of Sucker Creek Preserve, as stated on its official Web site.

And the educational component of that mission was on display this past Wednesday through Friday, as the Preserve held its grand opening celebration.

Elementary-age school children from Detroit Lakes and the surrounding area crowded into the Preserve's central amphitheatre, which seats 110 people, to hear a series of presentations by Sucker Creek founder Sally Hausken and children's book author Douglas Wood.

While Hausken briefly discussed how her dream for creating the Preserve was born from her summers spent visiting her great aunt's lake home on Big Detroit, Wood's presentation focused more on storytelling. In Thursday afternoon's session, for instance, he related the humorous tale, based on a native legend, of how the Minnesota mosquito came to be.

After his presentation, Wood said this grand opening celebration was "just saying hello -- now you have to come back and explore and learn all about this place."

Acquired by the city of Detroit Lakes in August 2001, the Sucker Creek Preserve conserves a 64.24-acre remnant of Minnesota's original, post-glacial maple-basswood forest for future generations.

Though it functions the same as a city park, Hausken said, "(Sucker Creek Preserve) is owned by the people, so we've got to protect it -- it's us who made it happen, so it's us who need to watch and see that it is cared for well and everyone complies with the rules (no littering, etc.)," Hausken added.

The construction of Sucker Creek Preserve, including its signage, paved walkways and amphitheater, was paid for entirely through private donations and grants, Hausken noted.

Though there are a few touches that need to be added, such as a bog walk over the southern part of Sucker Creek, and additional signage for some areas of the preserve, it is now officially opened to the public during regular city park hours, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

Bringing in the local grade school students for a field trip during the grand opening was a way to introduce the children to everything it has to offer.

"We wanted them to get excited about nature and keeping the earth viable," Hausken explained.

Besides the amphitheater, the handicap accessible walkways contain signage detailing the site's archaeological and ecological wonders, plant and animal life and so forth.

"(The content of) those signs were all written and designed by local people," Hausken noted. For instance, one sign on the site's bird life was created by the Lakes Area Birding Club.

The signs' placement, however, was largely determined by a $152,000 Department of Natural Resources grant, which dictated that they be placed in handicap accessible areas, Hausken explained.

Doug Wood had the chance to explore the park just a little bit prior to his presentations this week.

"I have walked the park a little, and I've been down to the creek," he said. "I think it's wonderful -- it's terrific for a community this size to want to make sure there's a little bit of wild space, of green space left for kids and families to go."

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