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Marsh walk, memorial path underway at Sucker Creek

The newest addition to Sucker Creek Preserve -- a marsh walk and hiking path -- is certainly a joint effort.

Besides Newman Enterprise, which built the metal marsh walk, there has been lots of donated time during the completion of the marsh walk and the Janet Boe Memorial Path.

North Country Trail Association's Matthew Davis, Detroit Lakes High School science teacher Steve Fode's students and High School Principal Steve Morben, Sucker Creek preservist Sally Hausken and Boe's widower, Thom Soule, gathered together Friday to work on the path.

The path is being named for Janet Boe, who died earlier this spring.

"She was on the restoration committee, and I had asked her if she would write the text for the signs. She was eager and willing to do that," Hausken said.

Boe's husband is finishing her work.

"The trail we are working on now, Sally has graciously dedicated to my wife," Soule said Friday.

Boe was the northwest regional plant ecologist from the Bemidji Department of Natural Resources.

"She played a role and helped Sally establish this park," Soule added, so he met with Hausken to help get involved and finish what his wife had started.

Friday, the crew was working on the first step of the path so hikers can visually see the trail. The intersections will be marked so wherever hikers are, they'll know what's ahead. Signs are by Jeff Johnson with Wood You Tell Me.

"What she enjoyed most (about her job) was bringing conservation to communities," Soule said of his wife.

"I'm just here to help because this is a good resource for the community," Davis said. "It's a good spot for people with kids, young kids, adults, just anybody to just come walk through the woods. It's nice to have trails for them so they're not just wandering around."

Connected to the southern path is a marsh walk.

Along the marsh walk, there will be two benches for resting, signs with information on insects thanks to Moriya Rufer, Lakes Program coordinator with RMB Environmental Laboratories, Inc., and signs about fish in the creek, thanks to Dave Friedl with the DNR .

"I don't force these things. If people want to do it, so be it," Hausken said of the help she's received.

And the people have come to help.

Fode teaches Water Watch to his ninth graders during his chemistry class. He works with the Pelican River Watershed District to study areas from Floyd Lake to Lake Melissa. Kids take water samples and conduct 11 chemical tests on them.

He has been teaching this for 15 years to roughly 250 freshmen a year, and said, "For years, I've wanted to take a tour of the watershed from top to bottom."

Last year, Fode and students were touring Sucker Creek when he told Hausken he would like to help her in any way he could. So last week, she contacted him about the path, and Fode recruited 20-25 kids in a couple days to help with the project.

Not only is it learning about the environment for the class, it's also about "stewardship, giving back to the community."

Friday morning, those students willing to help were Austin Peterson, Josh Stalberger, Jordan Manning, Bre Halbur and Brittany Malvick.

"I could do this all day," Stalberger said.

Hausken said the marsh walk has been in talks since before the grand opening of Sucker Creek a year ago. The cost of the walk came 50 percent from the DL Park Board and 50 percent from a private party donation.

Before building the marsh walk, Hausken and two city park staff members visited the Big Bog near Red Lake for ideas. The marsh walk materials are not slippery even in the winter.

I think it's a wonderful place, a model perhaps for other communities that are interested in doing this kind of thing," Soule said of Sucker Creek. "It's a good example of the community working together."

"It's a good laboratory for high school students and younger folks to just get out here and not have to drive for 20 minutes on a bus," Davis echoed. "It's two minutes or five minutes. Then you get out here, and you wouldn't even know you're in the city of Detroit Lakes -- except for the highways and railroad. But look around and you wouldn't think you were in the city. It's for the whole community. It's nice to have that so close by."

Hausken, the driving force behind Sucker Creek Preserve, said she hopes to have a botanist to inventory the plants, which takes college or post-graduate work. If colleges could find benefit to researching there, "by all means, they are cordially invited."

She reminds people the park is the people's park. If vandalism is seen, report it. She said $391,000, plus in-kind donations are from people in the public.

To access the marsh walk, follow 290th Avenue (where Sucker Creek is located) to Brook Ridge Lane. A small parking lot will eventually be built in that location.