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North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department

Historical Overview
 North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department
By Marc Conrad
(Researched 2014 for 50th Anniversary)
Qualities of state parks defined in early years

It is unique in state park history that the North Dakota State Historical Society managed state parks for the first 58 years (1907-1965).  Parks in most states were managed by a separate state parks department. To a large extent, the public’s early wish to preserve its cultural historic sites explains why North Dakota put acquisition and maintaining of parks in the hands of the State Historical Society.

President Theodore Roosevelt set the stage in 1907 for North Dakota’s first state park when he signed over the deed to Old Fort Abraham Lincoln five miles south of Mandan to the state of North Dakota.
(Source: The State Park Movement by Ney C. Landrum, 2004, p. 61)

Establishment of Fort Abraham Lincoln as a state park soon after made North Dakota the 14th or 15th state to create a park to attract visitors statewide and beyond. 
(Source: Landrum,  appendix p. 262-265)

North Dakota recognized early on the value of providing public parks for recreation and cultural enrichment.  Before 1907 and through the first half of the 20th century many small tracts of land with local historic significance were gifted to the state. Many of these sites were most suited as city and county parks, as they attracted few if any visitors beyond the immediate area.

As the state park system slowly evolved in the mid-20th century, it became clear that only parks with statewide appeal were suited to be in a state park system. The definition of a state park was presented in a 1962 letter to the State Parks Committee by R. J. Elliot, then director of state parks: “A State Park is an area of relatively large expanse that possesses outstanding scenic and recreational values that afford family activities.”
(Source: State Historical Report Division of Parks, July 1962, R.J. Elliot, director, p. 4)

Elliot then explained how an historic place such as Fort Abraham Lincoln qualified as a state park as opposed to just an historic site: “A State Historic Park is a park of particular historical significance on which development has been made for recreation.”
(Source: Elliot report, pgs. 4-5)

Since establishment as a state park, Fort Abraham Lincoln has offered outstanding recreational and cultural opportunity, which fits the definition of a state park. From inception as the state’s first state park, Fort Abraham Lincoln attracted visitors from across the nation and worldwide. The Custer name has had remarkable drawing power ever since the Seventh Cavalry was wiped out at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, June 26, 1876.  Those with only a passing interest in American history know that Fort Abraham Lincoln was the home of Custer’s Seventh Cavalry.
Fort Abraham Lincoln offers additional cultural attractions within walking distance. Fort McKeen on the hill north of Fort Abraham Lincoln was a frontier infantry post. And east of the fort are wooded river bottoms of the Heart River and the Missouri River where the Mandan Indian On-A-Slant Village was located. In addition, the forested river bottom area near Fort Abraham Lincoln is ideal for fishing, hiking and viewing native plants in a preserved habitat that existed prior to the arrival of the first white settlers.

Today the 23 state parks and recreation areas in North Dakota draw over a million visitors per year. And Fort Abraham Lincoln remains one of the most popular with more than 100,000 visitors annually.

Reasons for establishing the first parks
North Dakota’s reasons for establishing state parks in the early part of the 20th century were threefold: to preserve historic and cultural sites of significance, preserve native flora and fauna and offer the public scenic places for picnics, camping and other outdoor recreation.
(Source: Constitution and By-Laws for The State Parks of North Dakota reprinted in The State Park System of North Dakota, p. 222. Circa 1920)
These original reasons for setting aside land for parks are still important. But over the past century, the overriding mandate for managing and developing North Dakota’s 23 state parks and recreation areas has expanded from preserving historic and cultural sites to also providing a growing list of outdoor recreational experiences demanded by the public.

State parks didn’t appear on the American landscape until after the Civil War. The nation’s first successful state park, Niagara Falls in New York, was established in 1885.
Minnesota, North Dakota’s neighbor to the east, was among the first to create a system of state parks in 1891, when it established Itasca State Park at the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
(Source: Landrum, p.37,38,39)

Wyoming, North Dakota’s neighbor to the southwest, established Hot Springs State Park near Thermopolis in 1897. The Cowboy State already had some appreciation of the value of public parks because it is home to the first national park, Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872. Yellowstone National Park predates all state parks.
(Source: Landrum, p. 4)

South Dakota became part of the State Parks movement in 1919 when it established Custer State Park in the Black Hills.
(Source: Landrum, p. 264)

The generation that homesteaded North Dakota and their children were sold on providing public parks, but their predominant motivation was to acquire and preserve historical sites and natural habitat as it had been during settlement. The list of state parks established from the early 1900s through 1917 included: Fort Abraham Lincoln, Walhalla, Fort Abercrombie, Huff Indian Village, Fort Rice, Pembina State Park, and Cavalier State Park. The state Historical Society also took steps to purchase Double Ditch Indian Village north of Bismarck.
(Source: North Dakota History Vol. 34. No. 4, The State Historical Society of North Dakota:  A Brief History, by Ray H. Mattison, p. 304)

Proud of its national leadership in the state parks movement in the early 1920s, the state Historical Society published The State Park System of North Dakota, a pamphlet that show- cased six of the most important parks: Walhalla State Park, Fort Rice State Park, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, Pembina State Park, Fort Abercrombie State Park and Cavalier County State Park. The North Dakota Capitol Grounds is also featured as a future state park.

Written by Orin G. Libby, a history professor at the University of North Dakota and then secretary of the State Historical Society, the pamphlet includes detailed maps of each park and explains the historic significance of each park. And it also promotes establishing the State Capitol Grounds in Bismarck as a state park. But that idea, which has been resurrected and pitched to governors and legislators at different times, has never happened.

The pamphlet, which offers no publication date, also featured an essay by Melvin R. Gilmore, then curator for the Historical Society, about the important conservation role state parks play in preserving nature. In his essay the outspoken Gilmore said that state parks create lasting historic monuments and offer a sanctuary for native animals and plants in danger of “being entirely extirpated by the plow and by the excessively close grazing of cattle and sheep, or by wanton destruction and rampant ravaging from ungoverned and senseless plucking by ruthless human beings.”

Gilmore opines that the primary purpose for establishing state parks during his era was to preserve history and nature: fur trading posts, military forts, battlefield sites and archeaological sites. Over time the motivation for establishing and maintaining state parks have changed. Although preserving culture and natural resources remain important, public demand for quality outdoor recreational opportunities today are additional motivation for creating and maintaining public parks.

Other parks established during the 1920s included Homer State Park, Camp Weiser, Camp Sheardown, Southside Antelope Society, Camp Kimball, Chaska, David Thompson, Camp Corning, Burman, Buffalo Creek, Birch Creek, Camp Atchison, Arrowhead State Park, Saint Claude, Whitestone Hill Battlefield, McPhail’s Butte, Strong Memorial Park, Streeter Memorial Park, Smokey Lake State Park, Fred Smith Memorial, Fort Buford, Doyle Memorial State Park, Fort Seward and Butte St. Paul.
(Source: The State Historical Society of North Dakota: A Brief History, Mattison, p. 308)

Early in the 20th century, few states had any notion of the so-called State Park Movement, which was an idea first given currency by those in charge of National Parks. By 1921, only 19 states had even a single state park. And North Dakota was one of only seven states that had more than one state park. In fact, North Dakota, Ohio and Connecticut had the largest state park systems at the time, according to the National Park Service.
(Source: http://ti.org/Parkstext.html, p. 2)

State Park Movement
A pivotal moment in “The State Park Movement” gaining traction came Jan. 10-13, 1921, when the first-ever National Conference on Parks was convened in Des Moines, Iowa. Dreamed up by Steven Mather, then director of the National Park Service, the conference was Mather’s way to unveil to the country and launch his vision of each state developing a system of state parks. He hoped the conference would sharpen the definition of a state park and also fuel the growth of the State Park Movement.
(Source: Landrum, p. 82)

Mather’s speech at the conference boldly emphasized that states had grasped the recreational possibilities state parks offered to the public. He encouraged state governments to clear the way for states to accept donations of property and establish parks. “Every state in the Union should have a park commission,” he said.  He emphasized that every state park program should have a similar administrative and management structure.
(Source: Landrum, p. 85)

National Parks Director vision includes a state park every 100 miles
Mather also bolstered his case by arguing that the growing popularity of automobile touring and rapid construction of public roads made the concept of the State Park Movement ripe for public acceptance.
“I believe we should have comfortable camps all over the country, so that the motorist could camp each night in a good scenic spot, preferably a state park,” Mather said.
(Source: Landrum, p. 88)

The comment is believed to have launched the conference slogan “A state park every 100 miles,” the distance a car could comfortably cover in the 1920s. 
(Source: Ibid. p. 88)

Mather believed the motoring public needed state parks to fill the geographical gaps between national parks. He also said that state parks often did not meet the high bar required to become a national park but offered a high level of recreational opportunities.

From the inception of the National Conference on State Parks in Des Moines through the early ‘30s, the State Park Movement experienced steady but not phenomenal growth. And the National Park Service continued through the years to be the chief nurturer of “The State Park Movement.”
(Source: The State Historical Society of North Dakota: A Short History, p. 311)

Great Depression, New Deal spark development of state parks
Surprisingly, the long awaited opportunity for the National Park Service to jump start the development of state parks was made possible by the Great Depression. President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs created make-work programs for the unemployed.
The Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps offered a way for state parks to make improvements needed to meet public recreational, cultural and scenic needs. The FERA/WPA/CCC programs included surveying and building park roads, building basic need facilities such as toilets/outhouses, campsites, fire places, picnic areas, providing potable water and building attractions within the parks such as museums, reconstructing old forts and erecting markers to identify important locations within a park.
(Source: Landrum, p. 125)

The FERA/WPA and CCC program forces were sent to work on conservation projects across the country, including the development of state parks.  FERA/WPA and CCC groups assigned to develop state parks were managed by the National Park Service.
The Roosevelt Administration targeted the improvement of parks with CCC workers after a federal study revealed that automobiles, the proliferation of easy-to-travel highways and increased leisure time had created a huge demand for auto touring and outdoor recreation, including sightseeing, picnicking and camping. Technological advances in factories and farming created more leisure time for citizens searching for outdoor recreational opportunities.
(Source: Op. Cit. p. 150)

Russell Reid, director of the North Dakota Historical Society from 1931 to 1960, quickly recognized that the New Deal programs were what the North Dakota state park system needed to come of age. He could transform state parks into outdoor recreation sites ready to meet the needs of the public.

Reid’s timely applications in 1934 for FERA/WPA and CCC camps resulted in the National Park Service locating a total of nine CCC camps to develop state and local parks. State parks where these programs made substantial improvements were Fort Abraham Lincoln (CCC), south of Mandan; Lake Metigoshe (FERA/WPA), 14 miles NE of Bottineau; Turtle River State Park (CCC), 22 miles W. of Grand Fork; and Beaver Lake State Park (WPA), 14 miles SW of Napoleon.
(Source: The State Historical Society of North Dakota: A Short History, p. 311)

Improvements by the Civilian Conservation Corps to these parks dramatically changed the landscape and usability of these parks. For example, the Fort Abraham Lincoln Park complex included construction of three block houses and palisades at Fort McKeen Infantry Post on the hills above Fort Abraham Lincoln Cavalry Post; reconstruction of five of the 86 earth lodges at the Mandan Indian On-A-Slant Village; signage and markers placed where buildings once stood at Fort Lincoln; construction of the park museum made of native rocks; and construction of picnic shelters and rock fireplaces and roads at the campground along the Heart River below On-A-Slant Village.  CCC improvements at Fort Abraham Lincoln were made by camp members comprised of military veterans (CCC 2775V).
At Turtle River State Park, the CCC built roads and picnic areas and a large bathhouse for swimmers.  Lake Metigoshe State Park improvements included construction of a large lodge and lodging, recreational rooms that could serve up to 200 people, roads and associated out buildings.
Three parks benefiting from WPA and CCC programs in North Dakota were also established during the 1930s: Turtle River, Lake Metigoshe, and Beaver Lake. These parks were more about public recreation than historic preservation.
(Source: The State Historical Society of North Dakota: A Short History, Mattison, p. 310)

The International Peace Gardens, north of Dunseith, which commemorate 100 years of peace between the U.S. and Canada was also a CCC project area.  The property was not a state park, rather, an independent property managed by a non-profit board of directors.  However, the International Peace Garden is affiliated with the National Park Service and also with the State Historical Society and State Parks.  This affiliation was accomplished in the early 1930’s to enable funding from FERA and CCC.  Additionally, the State Historical Society and the State Parks (1995) afforded state appropriations to match funds with the province of Manitoba.

Legislature establishes state parks committee  (More detail contained in Appendices 1)
To meet the state park system’s changing needs, the 1935 Legislative Assembly expanded the state Historical Society’s  authority to acquire parks, and to make park acquisitions through purchase, gift or eminent domain. In addition, the Historical Society was given authority to make rules, regulations and enter into concession agreements for parks under its control and deposit fees, concessions into a State Park Maintenance Fund.
(Source: S.L. 35 Ch. 216)

The 1935 legislation can also be viewed as an early step for the state in recognizing the value of outdoor recreation to the now motoring public. The law gave the North Dakota State Historical Society authority to acquire land for parks that didn’t have historical significance. Parks could now be created for their scenic and recreational value.
And the expanded authorities provided by the 1935 statute also gave the Society the authority to jointly manage with the National Park Service a proposed national park along the Little Missouri River that would eventually become the north and south units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Prior to its dedication as Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in 1947,  the north and south parks were federal Recreational Demonstration Projects named North Roosevelt Park and South Roosevelt Park managed by the parks division of the state Historical Society.
(Source: The State Historical Society: A Short History, p. 311)

The 1935 law also changed the structure of the administrative system used to manage and regulate state parks. It set forth the requirement that an appointed five-member committee be created with the state Historical Society to oversee and regulate  parks with the advice and consent of the governor.
(Source: S.L. 1935, Ch. 180)

This appointment of a parks committee within the state Historical Society may have been the first indicator the management of parks would eventually require creation of a government department devoted soley to the park system.
Members of the first State Park Committee were Russell Reid, director of the North Dakota Historical Society; George F. Will, a Harvard scholar and owner of the Will Seed Company in Bismarck; Orin G. Libby, first secretary of the Historical Society and a UND Professor; Dana Wright; and Robert Bryn, a former N.D. Secretary of State.
(Source: Mattison, p. 310)

Many believe that a large share of the credit for modernizing the state park system in the 1930s and providing opportunites for outdoor recreation belong to Reid. He had started working for the Society while a student at Bismarck High School, eventually becoming the full-time director of the state Historical Society. In addition to being an excellent administrator, Reid was also an accomplished photographer, naturalist, historian and writer.
(Source: Russell Reid: A Friend’s Recollection, North Dakota History, Volume No. 4, Fall 1967, p. 289-290)

Years later, when looking back at the CCC/WPA state park expansion era, Reid lavished high praise on the federal emergency relief fund programs, calling them the most important factor in the development of North Dakota state parks.

“Although many valuable additions to the state park system were acquired prior to the advent of Emergency Conservation Work Programs, it can truly be said that the development of North Dakota state parks and historic sites really commenced with the establishment of the first CCC park camp assigned to the state,” Reid said.
(Source: Mattison history, p. 310)
Reid’s statement is taken from the fall 1967 North Dakota History Journal of the Northern Plains in an article reviewing the history of the State.

Outbreak of WW II ends state parks expansion
Unfortunately, the boom in state park development that began with the New Deal ended abruptly with the outbreak of World War II. Within a short time, federal budget cuts resulted in abandonment of CCC camps and development of state parks ground to a halt. North Dakota state parks development was once again largely dependent on state appropriations. Public visitation to parks also dropped due to the war effort, which included rationing of gasoline and tires.
(Source: Landrum, p. 155-156)

Following World War II, more state money was budgeted for state parks. Between 1945 and 1963, appropriations for the Historical Society increased from $52,450 to $388,639, enough to operate and maintain parks, but little was left for improvements or expansion.
(Source: Internal documents of N.D. Parks and Recreation Department)

State park administrators used this period to plan for expansion of the park system when funding opportunities for park improvements once again became available.

Despite the lack of funding for additional park improvements, many new historic state parks were established between 1940 and 1965.
Historic park sites added to the park system during this 25 year period include: Brenner Crossing, Cannonball Stage Station, Danish Mill, Fort Totten, Fort Ransom, Gingras Trading Post, Killdeer Battlefield, Lake Jessie, Maple Creek Crossing, Medicine Rock, Sitting Bull Site, Site of Steamboat Warehouse, Sully Corrall, Site of Sweden, Standing Rock, Wadeson Park and Crow Flies High Butte.
(Source: Mattison Short History, p. 314)

Legislature creates new agency to manage state parks
Management of state parks was under review from the 1950s and early 1960s. Leaders of the Legislative Assembly over time were coming to the conclusion that state parks had to be transferred from the State Historical Society into a separate agency dedicated to park management and development of recreation facilities. The first step toward separating the parks department from the historical society happened in 1959 when David Hovey of the state parks committee within the State Historical Society was named the first state parks director. Unfortunately, Hovey died in May of 1960.  The position remained vacant for about one year when Ray Elliot was named as Hovey’s replacement. Elliot continued to work within the North Dakota Historical Society until March of ’64.
(Source: Mattison history, p. 316)

A year later, the ’65 Legislature established an independent agency - North Dakota Park Service. 
(Source: S.L. 1965, Ch. 413)

Once the decision was made to establish the separate parks department, it was determined that existing parks were to be divided up between the two agencies. Historic sites with less recreational potential should continue to be managed by the State Historical Society. Those with recreational potential, including Fort Abraham Lincoln, were moved to the new North Dakota Park Service.

Most of the larger parks with recreational potential were transferred to the Park Service (new department) while the smaller historic sites remained with the State Historical Society. In addition, it was agreed that sites transferred to the State Park Service were predominantly natural, scenic or recreational in character and not predominantly historical.

It was recognized that four of the parks, Fort Abraham Lincoln, Fort Buford, Fort Abercrombie and White Stone Hill were partially recreational and partially historical.

Properties originally transferred to the newly created North Dakota Park Service:
*Lake Metigoshe State Park
*Turtle River State Park
*Garrison Lake State Park
*Totten Trail State Park
*Beaver Lake State Park
*Icelandic State Park    
*Fred Smith State Park Reserve
*Smoke Lake State Park Reserve
*Strong Memorial State Park Reserve
*Crow Flies High State Park Reserve
*Streeter Memorial State Reserve
*Doyle Memorial State Park Reserve
*Butte St. Paul State Park Reserve
*Badlands State Park Reserve
*Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
*Fort Abercrombie State Park
*De Mores Historic Park
*Fort Buford Historic Park
*Fort Rice Historic Park
*Whitestone Hill Historic Site
*Double Ditch Recreation Area

Three park sites, Fort Buford, Fort Rice and the Whitestone Battlefield, were deemed historical and thus returned to the North Dakota Historical Society by the 1967 Legislative Assembly.
(Source: Mattison History, p. 319)

A current inventory of ND State Park properties is found in Appendices 2.

Legislature creates planning agency to assist North Dakota Park Service
The 1965 Legislative Assembly also created a separate agency to assist the N.D. Park Service with planning improvements to parks: the State Outdoor Recreation Agency (SORA). This agency was given the mandate to create comprehensive outdoor-recreation planning to help the State of North Dakota qualify for grants offered through the Federal Land and Water Conservation Act of 1964.  SORA administered this grant program outgranting funds to political subdivision units throughout the state.
(Source: S.L. 1965, Ch. 379)

SORA managed the federal grant program and conducted the planning required by the government to qualify for funding. Clarence Maesner was named first director of SORA in 1965.  He was replaced by John Greensilt, who served from 1966 to 1972.

Other directors of the State Parks Department during this period of transition and modernization were: Ray Elliot, November 1961 to March 1964; James Kittle, April 1964 to May, 1967; Dave O’Brien, January 1, 1968 to 1972;  and Einar Johnson, (an employee of the National Park Service loaned to the state of North Dakota) 1973 to 1975.
More detail on agency directors is found in Appendix 4.
State parks needed federal money to expand recreational facilities, but those in charge of planning found it difficult to predict the amount of federal money that was available from year to year. Some years federal funding was enough to implement park improvements, while funding in other years wasn’t enough to carry out planned park improvements.

Federal requirements to qualify for funding by the Land and Water Conservation Act (LWCA) were similar to those offered under President Roosevelt’s CCC and WPA programs; both programs offered funding for development of state parks. Incentives in the LWCA encouraged states to hire young adults in need of work to fill labor needs to make park improvements, which to some extent shadowed the Civilian Conservation Corps.

For example, in 1966, the Neighborhood Youth Corps Project was approved for 83 boys and 17 girls to work in the North Dakota park system for one year. Youth hired between the ages of 16 and 22 were all from low income families near each park. Those hired were used in the operation and maintenance of parks.  They performed manual labor jobs, sales and administration.
(Source: North Dakota Park Service Two Year State Park Progress and Five Year Acquisition & Development Program, 1965-1970, By James Kittle and Dave O’Brien, P.P. 9-10)

The Land and Water Conservation Act required the National Park Service, the administering agency, to establish a liaison in each state. The Governor appointed the liaison since the LWCA required each state to create an Outdoor Recreation Agency. The director of the Outdoor Recreation Agency was the first state liaison to the National Park Service. Later, when SORA and the Park Service were merged (and the N.D Park Service name was changed to the N.D. Parks and Recreation Department), the director of the N.D. Parks and Recreation Department became the state’s liaison to the National Park Service.
(Source: S.L. 1977, Ch. 503)

Additionally, the National Park Service required that a State Comprehensive Recreation Plan (SCORP) be developed every five years as a qualification to receive federal funds. The first comprehensive outdoor recreation plan was completed in ’66 after public input was gathered from the state’s eight planning regions to assist in assessing outdoor recreational needs. All applicants, city, county, tribal and other state political subdivisions were aware of the SCORP assessment and used the plan to submit project proposals. These proposals were reviewed and approved based on priority recreational needs within the planning regions.
More detail on Recreation Grants can be found in Appendices 7.

Directors of national and state parks realized in the ‘50s and ‘60s that park management and planning were becoming increasingly complex. Providing basic necessities such as roads, picnic and campgrounds, running water and flush toilets was no longer enough to satisfy park users.  Park professionals were forced to come to terms with a growing public demand for diverse outdoor recreation opportunities including horseback riding, walking, cross-country skiing and snowmobile trails, marinas for boating and fishing, and cultural centers that explained the natural flora and fauna and park history.

In a March ’63 letter sent to state department heads, Gov. William L. Guy stated: “The demand for outdoor recreation is surging. It is clear that Americans are seeking the outdoors as never before. And this is only a foretaste of what is to come.  By 2000 the population should double -the demand for recreation will triple.”
Guy cited a publication called Outdoor Recreation for America for the prediction that demand for outdoor recreation would triple by 2000.
(Source: Statement written by State Engineer Milo Hoisveen, engineer/secretary of the State Water Conservation Commission, titled “Outdoor Recreation in North Dakota.”  N.D Water Conservation Commission, Box 11-32063)

The State Outdoor Recreation Agency partnered with the N.D. Park Service to fulfill the public’s growing appetite for diverse and quality outdoor experiences. The challenge was to accurately measure public demand for the various recreational facilities and find efficient ways to develop these facilities.

State establishes new parks, creates more recreation

Ways to broaden public opportunities for outdoor recreation along Lake Sakakawea had been under review by the State Historical Society during construction of the Garrison Dam between 1947 and 1953. Garrison, creating the world’s third largest man-made lake, was the second dam of a six part system of Missouri River dams authorized by the Pick-Sloan Act. 

In 1965, the State Park Service added Garrison Lake State Park on Lake Sakakawea (later expanded and renamed in 1973 as Lake Sakakawea State Park) to the state park system. Later in the 1970s two more sites on the Garrison Reservoir were established as state parks:  Lewis and Clark State Park, established in 1973 east of Williston, and Fort Stevenson State Park near Garrison, established in 1974.

After the ’71 State Legislature authorized leasing of land for parks along Garrison Reservoir from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State Park Service added these three state parks to provide better access to Lake Sakakawea’s fishing, swimming, camping, boating and sailing.
(Source: S.L. 1967, Ch. 413)

Yet another addition to the parks system came in 1964 with Icelandic State Park near Cavalier. Land required to build the reservoir for Lake Renwick Dam was obtained from the Pembina County Water Board.   And what later became known as the Gunlogson Nature Preserve portion of Icelandic State Park was gifted to the state by G.B. and Loa Gunlogson.
At the gifting ceremony to the state in 1963, land donor G. B. Gunlogson said: “Offers to buy this land have come to me from time to time. But to me there are certain intangible values, such as the echo of a whippoorwill, which no buyer could be expected to pay for and which he might not even appreciate. So I had decided long ago that it should never be sold. Instead, it has been my intention to turn this land over to such purposes as might be of the greatest value to a community and to the state.”
(Source: Ev Miller’s History of Icelandic State Park for North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, 1994 pg.24)

Natural Heritage/Nature Preserves Mandate
Fast forward 17 years: G. B. Gunlogson’s conservation message at the time his homestead was gifted proved to be prophetic.  In 1980 the Gunlogson Arboretum became North Dakota’s first dedicated State Nature Preserve, authorized by passage of the Nature Preserve Act by the 1975 State Legislature.  The legislation required the department to set aside threatened natural areas and nature preserves for present and future generations.

The department began fulfilling the legislative mandate for nature preserves in 1980 by reviewing the potential for establishing what it called a “natural heritage inventory.” This involved identifying original flora, fauna and unique natural communities in North Dakota, assessing their conservation status and establishing priorities for their preservation. The inventory is part of a nationwide network that maintains records on rare species and significant natural habitat.
The Natural Heritage inventory of the Gunlogson Homestead in Icelandic State Park identified more than 12 rare plants and animals and four significant natural communities. This discovery resulted in the department establishing the Gunlogson Nature Preserve, the state’s first nature preserve. Today five natural areas have been designated state Nature Preserves: Gunlogson, Pembina County; Cross Ranch, north of Mandan; Head of the Mountain, Sargent County; H.R. Morgan, northeast of Lisbon; and Sentinel Butte, south of Sentinel Butte.
(Source: Internal documents within the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department)

The Natural Heritage Database has increased substantially over the past 33 years. More than 5,400 rare plants, animals and natural communities are identified and on record. Natural heritage inventories continue with focus on county ecological community inventories, Western prairie fringed orchid surveys, rare plant monitoring and native prairie and fen monitoring. The program, which depends heavily on federal partnerships, also maps and controls noxious weeds and other invasive species, restores prairies, prescribes burns, provides mosquito control, removes hazardous trees, and implements planting of trees and shrubs.
In addition to identifying and cataloging rare plants, animals and natural communities, the program has resulted in the restoration of 500 acres of prairie and the planting of more than 250,000 trees and shrubs.
(Source: Internal Documents within the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department)
Additional information on Nature Preserves and Natural Areas can be found in Appendices 6

Transition to Professional Management
Another important moment in state park history occurred during Einar Johnson’s tenure as park director from ’73 to ‘75. Before Johnson, an employee on loan from the National Park Service, state parks were managed by residents who had little training in park management. Often they were retired citizens who lived near to the park.
(Source: The Evolution of North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, By Paula Onufray Berg, p. 18)

Johnson upgraded park management by hiring park managers and rangers trained in the field of natural resource management and parks and recreation.
Two new state parks were established during the ‘70s and funding for yet another park was approved by the State Legislature, but was rescinded by a statewide referral vote.

Little Missouri State Park, 17 miles north of Killdeer, was established in 1971. This primitive park has become a favorite of horseback riders, hikers and birders. Some of the most scenic sites in the Badlands are within the boundaries of this park, which offers 30 campsites, artesian wells and corrals for horseback riders.

Fort Ransom in the Sheyenne River Valley became a state park in 1976. Rich in scenic beauty and history, the park formally opened in 1979. Fort Ransom is located 24 miles north/northeast of Lisbon.

Purchase of the Cross Ranch 30 miles north of Mandan was approved by the State Legislature in 1979. However, Bismarck businessman Robert McCarney, killed the proposed park funding by successfully leading a statewide referral that delayed establishing the Cross Ranch as a state park until 1989.

Parks and Recreation takes on new responsibilities
During the ‘70s, the department also was mandated by law to implement and manage the snow mobile certification test and groom established snow trails. The State Snowmobile Program of the Parks and Recreation Department was created by the 1977 Legislature’s passage of a law requiring registration of all snowmobiles.
A portion of the state snowmobile registration fee is used by the department to publicize and offer snowmobile safety and certification courses. The money is also used to develop snowmobile trails. The snowmobile trail system in North Dakota includes more than 2,800 miles of groomed trails. To lawfully operate a snowmobile on public lands, youth 12 and over without a valid driver’s license must pass a certification test. The department offers preparation and certification tests.

In 1975, the Park Service was charged with coordinating the Little Missouri River Commission. The purpose of this commission is to preserve the Little Missouri River as nearly as possible in its present form and provide advice to government subdivisions on the river’s scenic, historic and recreational qualities.  The Little Missouri River meanders from its source in Wyoming across southwestern North Dakota until it empties into Lake Sakakawea north of Killdeer.
(Source: S.L. 1975, Ch. 576)

Directors of the State Park Service during the planning era of the late 1970s through 1980s were Gary Leppart, 1975 to 1977, Robert Horne, 1978 to 1981, and Doug Eiken, 1981 to 1994.
It is also notable that the parks division of the State Historical Society operated out of the museum building at Old Fort Abraham Lincoln south of Mandan from the mid 1930s to 1965. Adminstrative offices moved from the Capitol to Fort Abraham Lincoln when the State Parks and Recreation Department was established.  Later they were moved to the Pinehurst Office Building on west Century Avenue in Bismarck. The office has since moved to other locations and currently resides at 1600 E. Century Ave.  More detail is contained in Appendices 4

SORA merges with N.D. Park Service: Name Changed to ND Parks and Recreation Department
The State Outdoor Recreation Agency, the planning arm of the park system, continued to operate as a partner but separate state agency until 1975 when it merged into the North Dakota Park Service. In addition, the name of the merged agencies was changed to N.D. Parks and Recreation Department.
(Source: S.L. 1975, Ch. 503)

A listing of personnel from the two merged agencies is found in Appendices 10
In 1977, the Legislative Assembly established the State Outdoor Recreation Interagency Council (SORIC) within the State Park Service. This mandate required the department to provide planning and other outreach assistance to federal, state, tribal and other political sub-divisions in their efforts to develop recreational resources. The program was disbanded by the 2001 Legislative Assembly, which determined this council was redundant.

Planning remains priority in developing State Parks and Recreation
With the merger of the State Outdoor Recreation Agency into North Dakota Parks and Recreation, the role of planning continued to gain importance.  In 1980, three years after the SORA/State Park Service merger, the department produced the North Dakota State Parks System Plan. The plan proved to be a milestone in the future development of parks and recreation areas managed by the N.D. Parks and Recreation Department.

The State Park System Plan, completed under director Robert Horne’s term, included a suggestion that master plans be created for each park site.  In 1981, that suggestion led to the creation of a planning and development division within the department. Over the next decade master plans were completed for all of the full service parks.
In 1984, following the Garrison Diversion Reformulation Act, the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District asked the N.D. Parks and Recreation Department to prepare a Recreation Plan for the 18 counties within the district. The plan was prepared by the department’s planning and development division after consultation with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Garrison Diversion and local political subdivisions.

The ’80 System Plan changed forever the way state parks were managed. It played a key role in the careful way state parks were developed and managed. And it led to creation of master plans for each park that became working blue prints for management and development of each park based on inventories of cultural and natural resource assets. These individual master plans also made it possible to balance human recreational activities with the surrounding natural habitat of a park.

Prior to the creation of SORA in 1965, systematic planning of state parks was cursory and of lower priority. Park administrators believe planning is the best way to maximize money invested in each park and also minimize the cost of maintaining such facilities.
More detail on park planning and facility maintenance management is found in Appendices 5

The growing emphasis on park planning also led to the development of park support groups and friends. The state Parks and Recreation Department outreach began when public input was sought to identify needed park improvements. In time, efforts by the Parks and Recreation Department to reach the public resulted in the development of park support groups called “Friends of Parks.” These folks became volunteers to complete projects, present programs, do clean up and maintenance and operate as campground hosts.
(Source: Staff Quarterly Newspaper)

In some instances, park volunteers banded into foundations and associations that organized sophisticated fundraising campaigns for park projects identified as priorities in master plans. 
Over the next two decades, outreach efforts resulted in the formation of active volunteer support groups at nine of the 15 state parks. By 2002, these park volunteer groups contributed an estimated 20,000 hours to state park projects. Doug Prchal, then director of the Parks and Recreation Department, praised the contributions of the park volunteers in the summer/fall issue of Discover, the department’s public newsletter with this comment: “I can’t say enough about the people who have volunteered to work in our state parks.  Just about every type of outdoor interest is represented by park volunteer groups.”
More detailed information on partnerships/park support groups can be found in Appendices 9
Department mascot Roscoe The Raccoon makes debut
In 1983, as part of its outreach program, Parks and Recreation unveiled Roscoe the Raccoon, mascot and ambassador for the department. Roscoe was an immediate success, especially with children, during his first year of appearances at state parks and elsewhere. Roscoe the Raccoon plays the same public relations role for the Parks and Recreation Department as Smokey the Bear plays for the U.S. Forest Service. North Dakota Elks Clubs provided cost share funds for the purchase of the department mascot.

Department accepts management of recreational programs, projects
In 1985, the state Parks and Recreation Department also began implementing the state’s off-highway vehicle planning and safety program. The 1985 Legislature required registration of off-highway vehicles, which includes off-road motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and larger utility vehicles. Fees collected from the state registration fee for off-road vehicles are used by the department to develop trails and safety programs.

The law requires registration of any off-road vehicle traveling on public lands, including trails, roads and ditches. On its website, the department shows the location of all off-road trails, provides information about safety classes and certification courses for certifying youth operating off-road vehicles. Youth between the ages of 12 and 16 must complete the all-terrain vehicle safety course approved by the department before operating all-terrain vehicles on land other than that belonging to their parent or guardian.

In yet another act of reaching out, the State Parks and Recreation Department was named the lead agency in launching the Prairie Rose State Games. Authorized in 1986 by a directive from Gov. George Sinner, the Prairie Rose State Games offered a wide variety of competitive sporting events for all ages. Bismarck-Mandan, Fargo, Grand Forks, and Minot took turns hosting the annual event for 25 years from 1987 to 2011.

The State Parks and Recreation Department also took the lead in planning and organizing the 10 year North American Regatta, another directive of Gov. Sinner in the ‘80s. The purpose of the Regatta was to promote sailing on Lake Sakakawea by featuring annual sailboat and Catamaran races.
Detailed listing of state-wide special events can be found in Appendices 8
The State Parks and Recreation Department also took the lead in installing interpretive signs to mark the Lewis and Clark Trail along the Missouri River in North Dakota as a state centennial project. By 1988, the department had finished installing interpretive signage along the 300 mile drive in North Dakota along both the east and west sides of the Missouri River. North Dakota was the first state to complete installing the Lewis and Clark interpretive signage.

State Parks and Recreation took charge in the 1980s of the state’s portion of the North Country Scenic Trail, a 4,600 mile proposed trail that begins at Crown Point, New York, and  terminates at Lake Sakakawea State Park.  To date, 70 miles, the Oak Ridge Trail in the Sheyenne River Valley, was completed by the Youth Conservation Corps in ‘82.

During the ‘80s, the Devils Lake recreation areas and the Cross Ranch Park were added to the state park system. The Narrows Recreation Area at Devils Lake was added to the park system in ’81, while Grahams Island State Park, Shelvers Grove State Recreation Area and Black Tiger Bay State Recreation Area were established as part of the state park system in 1988. Unfortunately, the rising water at Devils Lake closed public access over the past several years to all but Grahams Island State Park at Devils Lake.

The Cross Ranch State Park finally was established as a park in 1989. About a decade earlier, the Cross Ranch had been offered for sale to the state and approved by the Legislative Assembly.

But a statewide referral in ’79 blocked the state’s purchase of the park, and the Cross Ranch was then bought by The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit conservation organization with a mission to preserve the nation’s natural heritage. In 1986, the Nature Conservancy donated 260 acres to the state to be used as a primitive state park. In addition, Burlington Northern Railroad donated another 17 acres to the state for the proposed state park, which was established as Cross Ranch Centennial State Park in 1989. 

Located along one of the last free-flowing sections of the Missouri River, the Cross Ranch in summer is ideal for camping, boating, canoeing, and hiking. And in winter, park trails are ideal for cross country skiing.

In the early ‘90s, director Doug Eiken launched the American Legacy Tour – a Bicentennial promotion - to draw attention to the outdoor/tourism destinations within the Missouri River Corridor from Bismarck to the Montana border. Promoted in collaboration with the State Tourism Division, Eiken’s campaign focused the spotlight on local, state and federal destinations, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Knife River Indian Village, Fort Union Trading Post, Fort Buford Historic Site, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park with On-A-Slant Village and the reconstructed Seventh Cavalry Post, Cross Ranch State Park, Lake Sakakawea with state and federal properties, and the Three Affiliated Tribes.

Budget woes cause ‘90s merger of Parks and Recreation and State Tourism departments
In 1990, depressed farm prices and low crude oil prices reduced state tax revenues below expectations, prompting Governor George Sinner to suggest budget cuts that included merging three state agencies: State Historical Society of North Dakota, Parks and Recreation and Tourism-Promotion Division.  State Parks and Recreation Department and Tourism-Promotion were okay with the idea, but the State Historical Society of North Dakota opposed the plan.

The ’91 Legislature approved merging the Parks and Recreation Department and Tourism, but the State Historical Society of North Dakota was removed from the merger. The belief was that merging Parks and Recreation with Tourism would reduce administrative costs and create synergisms that could potentially bolster state tourism and subsequent tax revenues. But the merger didn’t work out as expected.
(Source: S.L. 1991, Ch. 640)

Two years later, the ’93 Legislative Session reversed the merger, separating State Parks and Recreation Department and state Tourism Department into autonomous agencies. In 2001, the state Tourism Department was merged into a newly created North Dakota Commerce Department.

Following the reinstatement of the State Parks and Recreation Department as a separate agency, Doug Prchal was named department director, an office he held until 2010.

Department takes lead on National Trails that traverse North Dakota
During this period of merging and dissolving the merger, the state Parks and Recreation Department was appointed lead agency for administering a Recreation Trails Program in North Dakota.  Established in 1991 by the U.S. Congress, the program is an 80/20 matching grant program for both motorized and non-motor recreational trail projects. Projects eligible for the program include multi-use trails, trail linkages, trailside and trailhead facilities and trail signage.

To date, the Recreational Trail Program has funded 229 projects in the state for a total of $11.6 million. The following are eligible to apply for trail grants: cities, counties, townships, park boards and district, state and federal agencies and registered non-profit agencies.

Trails in North Dakota benefiting from the National Recreation Trails Program include: Cross Ranch Trails, Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge of the Historic Fort Totten Trail, Fort Mandan Nature and Historic Trail, Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Greenway Trail, Hay Creek Trail in Burleigh County, Prairie Hiking Trail at Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge, Maah Daah Hey Trail (120 mile trail through the Badlands), Munch’s Coulee Hiking Trail along the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge State Scenic Byway, Scout’s Trail in Abraham Lincoln State Park, Sullys Hill Nature Trail, Washburn Discovery Trail, and Wetlands and Waterfowl Trail in the Alice Waterfowl Production Area.
More detail on Recreation Trail Grants is found in Appendices 7

The ’95 Legislative Assembly changed the composition of the board of the State Historical Society by replacing directors serving on the board from the N.D. Forest Service and the N.D Game and Fish with directors from the N.D. Parks and Recreation Department and the Tourism Department.

State Parks and Recreation was named manager of the National Scenic Byway and Backways program in ‘97, but has worked closely on scenic roads accepted into the program with the state Department of Transportation.

A National Scenic Byway is a road recognized by the U.S. Department of Transportation for six intrinsic qualities: archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and/or scenic.

The program was established by Congress in ’91 to preserve and protect the nation’s scenic but often less traveled roads and to promote tourism and economic development.

The first three National Scenic Byways designated in North Dakota were: The Sheyenne River Valley Byway, the Standing Rock Valley Byway and the Rendezvous Region Scenic Backway.

National Scenic Byways must go through a nomination procedure and must already be designated as state scenic byways to be eligible for nomination. To be accepted as a scenic byway/backway, a road must have at least one of the six intrinsic qualities mentioned above.

After a scenic byway/backway corridor is nominated, a management plan must be developed to conserve and enhance the highway’s intrinsic quality.  In addition, the plan should help promote tourism and economic development in communities along the byway/backway.

Once the nomination and management plan are complete, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation must give final approval to the corridor before it is designated a National Scenic Byway or Backway.

Other highways in the state designated National Scenic Byways and Backways are: Chan SanSan Scenic Byway along James River, Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge Scenic Backway, Killdeer Mountain Four Bear Scenic Byway, Old Red Trail/Old Highway 10 Scenic Backway, Rendezvous Region Scenic Backway in Northeastern North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit Scenic Byway, and Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway.

A North Dakota Rivers study was initiated in 1997 through a collaborative matching grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation.  That study identified canoeable river segments throughout the state and established a set of parameters for the public to use in assessing canoe conditions at various times of the year.  This data set was also incorporated into a Canoe Hotline.
Drought in the 80’s; Flooding in the 90’s

Spring flooding became a problem for the State Parks and Recreation Department in 1997. Grahams Island State Park on Devils Lake was closed for most of the season. The park opened to the public in late summer. Attempts were made to raise the road and redesign it. The campground at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park sustained $75,000 in damages from March flooding of the Heart River. But the park managed to open in time for Memorial Day Weekend with limited services.
The Turtle River State Park west of Grand Forks was not inundated by the Red River, but was closed to recreational campers until midsummer after the park was designated as a flood relief camp. Flood victims were allowed to use campsites and cabins free of charge until the end of June.
Lewis and Clark BiCentennial

The department also began planning for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration after receiving $337,000 from the State Legislature for enhancements to parks along the Lewis and Clark Trail. The major focus was on improving infrastructure to five parks along the trail:  Fort Abraham Lincoln, Cross Ranch, and the three parks on Lake Sakakawea. Major improvements included upgrading electrical and water systems at Lake Sakakawea State Park. Five additional sleeping cabins were also built at Lewis and Clark, Lake Sakakawea and Fort Abraham Lincoln State parks. Another primitive log cabin was also built at Cross Ranch State Park. Other improvements included a new interpretive exhibit at Lewis and Clark State Park, development of additional signage, and brochures to be used by state parks along the trail.

Planning for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial improvements was boosted by Transportation Enhancement funding, which helped the state identify locations for potential projects with historic transportation components. The projects approved needed local sponsorship (political subdivision vs. private or private non-profit) for operation and maintenance obligation before the Department of Transportation would approve grant expenditures.

The Lewis and Clark Visitor Center at Washburn was one project that needed a local or state sponsor since the project was initiated by a non-profit. The N.D. Parks and Recreation Department stepped forward as sponsor to maximize the funding. The idea of a private/public agreement obligated the Lewis and Clark Foundation to future operation and maintenance, but the state retained ownership of the land and building.  Construction of the visitor center was coordinated by the Department and then turned operation of the facility over to the Lewis and Clark Foundation in ’97.  An expansion of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in 1997, by the Foundation, added 5,630 square feet to the complex. 

Maah Daah Hey Trail a reality
After a decade of planning in the 80’s and under construction since 1989, the Maah Daah Hey Trail – a 120 mile bike, hike and horse trail - had its first grand opening at the southern end of the trail at Sully Creek Campground, south of Medora, on June 19, 1999.  A week later, a second grand opening was held at the north end of the trail, at the U.S. Forest Service CCC Campground in McKenzie County, 20 miles south of Watford City. The trail winds its way through badlands and rolling prairie. Maah Daah Hey means an area that has been around for a long time in the Indian language.

The Maah Daah Hey Trail is a joint venture led by the U.S. Forest Service. Other partners include State Parks and Recreation Department, the National Park Service, and private support groups.

The New Century brings changes
In June 2001, Grahams Island State Park on Devils Lake had its grand re-opening. The park had been operating with limited access and facilities, and sometimes no access, since 1995. This was because of the rising water on Devils Lake.
(Source: Discover, Parks and Recreation Department newsletter, winter 2000/2001)

Also in June of 2000, Turtle River State Park was overwhelmed with a freak thunderstorm that dumped more than 20 inches of rain in the Turtle River over an eight hour period. The popular Woodland Lodge, a meeting and kitchen facility, was badly damaged. But Woodland Lodge was rebuilt with Federal Emergency Management assistance.
(Source: Discover, Parks and Recreation Department newsletter, winter 2000/2001)

Wildland fire training was introduced to park staff in 2002 and fire teams were established following that training.  The department staff provide assistance to state-wide efforts as coordinated and requested from State Forestry.

By 2002-2003, implementation of park improvements for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial continued on schedule. The state parks decided to salute the Bicentennial anniversary by putting Lewis and Clark motifs on their permits from 2003-2005 in recognition of the Corps of Discovery. The 2005 state park permit featured the Sakakawea statue silhouette. Also, the fifth earth lodge at On-A-Slant Indian Village was built in 2003. The 48-foot lodge provides historical information on the origin of the village to the present day. Four others lodges, including the large council lodge, had been reconstructed on the site since 1996, in preparation for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.

In 2004, boat ramps had to be moved at Lake Sakakawea Fort Stevenson State Park due to low water on the lake. Lowering waters forced changes to boat ramps through 2007. By 2009, after eight years, the low lake levels ended. But while lake levels went up on Lake Sakakawea, Fort Abraham Lincoln was hit hard by the spring runoff. After a record-breaking snowfall in the western part of the state, Fort Abraham Lincoln campground was inundated when the Missouri and Heart rivers overflowed. An ice jam on the Missouri kept the park inundated for several weeks. The interpretive program was scheduled to begin April 1, but did not open until May 1. The campground didn’t begin taking reservations until May 15. Electricity was unavailable until later in the summer.

First new park in a decade
Pembina Gorge Recreation Area was established in 2012 as the first new park in a decade. An employee of the N.D. Parks and Recreation Department was stationed at Pembina Gorge five years, coordinating development, before the department held the new park’s grand opening on June 30, 2012. The Pembina Gorge Recreation Area is the largest naturally forested area in the entire state. It is located northeast of the city of Walhalla and stretches up to the Canadian border. The area has no amenities but is popular among hikers, horseback riders, boaters, canoeists, and users of off-highway vehicles including snowmobiles in winter.

In 2010, Mark Zimmerman was named director of state Parks and Recreation after Doug Prchal retired, serving 16 years at the helm. Zimmerman came to the department after working with the state tourism division of the state Commerce Department, where he served as an outdoor recreational specialist.
The state Parks and Recreation Department faced the most difficult flooding conditions in the state’s history in 2011.  Although all parks remained open, about one-fourth of the state parks campgrounds were closed at least part of the spring/summer seasons, precipitated by record snowfall in the Rockies and freaky, downpour rain storms that caused flooding along the Missouri, Little Missouri, Sheyenne, Red and Mouse rivers.  In addition, water levels at Devils Lake continued to rise.

The first park closed by flooding was Sully Creek State Park south of Medora. Up to eight inches of gully-washer rains in neighboring Montana caused the Little Missouri to overflow, flooding most of Sully Creek Camp Ground. The state Parks and Recreation Department saved campground facilities with sandbags, but the park was closed until early summer.

The campground at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park and the Cross Ranch were closed after the Missouri River overflowed its banks due to high releases from Garrison Dam. For the first time since Garrison Dam was built, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to release water from the spillway to prevent the dam from overflowing.

Due to the efforts of volunteers and the staff of the State Parks and Recreation Department, Cross Ranch campground was opened Labor Day weekend.  However, Fort Abraham Lincoln campground did not open until June of 2012.

Grahams Island State Park at Devils Lake was also threatened when lake levels rose to new highs, threatening the already raised road that accesses the park. The access road and park were closed whenever high winds created five feet high waves that threatened vehicle safety when the waves crashed down on the road.

Saturated soil conditions also closed access to parts of Little Missouri State Park located north of Killdeer. Some trails in the park were closed due to slumping and Highway 22 north of the park was closed when slumping caused cracks in the pavement.

In 2010, the department reached an agreement with the state Forest Service to manage recreational trails on state forest land. Under the agreement, the Parks and Recreation Department established off-highway vehicle trail – off-highway trail on the Archery Range Section of the Turtle Mountain State Forest.

Foreseeable Future for N.D. Parks and Recreation Department
Mark Zimmerman, current director of N.D. Parks and Recreation, says he foresees the possible expansion of camping and recreation facilities at existing state park facilities. He also says it’s possible more land could be leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for additional parks along the banks of Sakakawea. It is even possible that another state park in the western part of the state could be established.

Zimmerman says the current state and federal budget outlook makes it likely that the State Parks and Recreation Department will be trying to get the most outdoor recreation possible from limited state and federal funding currently available.