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Back to the Wetlands: Fundraiser being held for Hamden Slough outdoor classroom

Steve Maneval is one of many volunteers who helped build the new Hamden Slough outdoor classroom, which still needs electricity, bathrooms and a well.1 / 4
The Hamden Slough outdoor classroom is designed to give visitors an up-close and personal view of the prairie lands and its countless creatures.2 / 4
The Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge is located one mile northeast of Audubon on 210th Street and managed by the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District office, which is located two miles north of Detroit Lakes.3 / 4
Unlike the woodsy wildlife found in Tamarac, Hamden Slough Wildlife Refuge is home to many much more prairie life like prairie flowers and bugs specific to this kind of habitat.4 / 4

The event is being held Saturday, April 28 at the Cormorant Lakes Sportsman's Club just south of Audubon.

Those interested in mingling with Friends can purchase tickets for $25 each.

Tickets include a catered meal of either chicken or stuffed pork tenderloin with sides such as vegetables and dessert.

Entertainment this year will be noted wildlife photographer Roland Jordahl from Park Rapids who will be putting on a wildlife slideshow.

There will also be a silent auction, meat raffle and door prizes.

Money raised during the group's one and only yearly fundraiser will go to complete the new Hamden Slough Environmental Education classroom, which sits just northeast of Audubon on the wildlife refuge.

The timber-framed building was constructed last year for visitors wanting to learn more about the prairies, and although its bare bones can be used for some events, the Friends are hoping to enhance it a bit.

"We need electricity, we need a well, we need septic," said Darlene Christen, a Friends of the DL Wetland Management District and this year's event chair.

"We also need to build on a little addition to the building for bathrooms because the original donation for the building didn't include that," she said.

Christen adds they'll likely be using the facility as-is for the May birding festival, but hopes the fundraiser will allow them to get electricity out there as soon as possible.

The building itself was built through donations and volunteers, and Friends have high hopes for what they call "the outdoor classroom".

"Aside from the birding festival, we also do the Prairie Fun Day out there where we have education booths set up and have big bird mounts and displays set up" said Christen, "and we also want to get more kids groups out here so they can learn about the outdoors and what we have out here -- Hamden Slough has a nice marsh close by..."

Christen says while it's great that area youth have a place like Tamarac to visit and learn about, nature's style is different at the Hamden Slough Wildlife Refuge.

"They've (Tamarac) got a lot of woodland out there, and we've got a lot of prairie so that means we've got a lot of prairie flowers and insects and bugs and things that are somewhat different than what they've got in Tamarac," said Christen, adding that their goal through the Wetland Management District is to preserve habitat for ducks in five counties -- Becker, Clay, Mahnomen, Norman and Polk.

She says the outdoor classroom, which is the first of its kind for the Detroit Lakes WMD, will add so much to the Hamden Slough because it gives youth groups like the Scouts, families and students to go and experience the natural world that lays right in our backyard.

"This project that we're working on is important to the community of Detroit Lakes," said Christen.

"It's an area where people can come out and enjoy the wildlife; they can bring their kids out and it can be an education for them -- it's just getting them out of their everyday surroundings and outdoors."

The Back to the Wetlands Fundraiser begins with a cocktail hour at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and speakers. To get tickets, call the DL Wetland office at 218-847-4431.