A brainstorm session between two local individuals has led to an effort to rejuvenate a well-known local outdoor destination. After taking over the reins as advisers of the Mayville State University Science Club, professors Jeff Hovde and Joseph Mehus discussed ways the organization could have an impact on the community. The topic of discussion then turned to one of nostalgia. Hovde and Mehus talked about positive memories during field trips at a scenic location where a wooded area met the Goose River in Mayville.
This section of land, owned by the Mayville Park Board and located on the southwest corner of town, is known as the Nature Trail. In the 1970s, the three-quarter mile trail was established by staff and students at Mayville State University. It was utilized by both the science and education departments at the college until the late 1990s. During those years, the location was also a favorite spot for science classes from local school districts at both the elementary and high school levels.
“Jeff and I got to talking about positive experiences we had having classes at the Nature Trail. It was something we always looked forward to as kids,” Mehus said. “We thought it would be cool if that opportunity was available to today’s students as well.” Today, much of the former trail is overgrown and can be difficult for individuals to navigate. Near the end of 2016, Mehus and Hovde began to work on a grant to acquire funds from the May-Port Economic Development Commission (MPEDC).
As part of the process, the duo created a survey reaching out to local science teachers in both Traill and Steele County to gauge their interest in the revamp of the Nature Trail. “The feedback was really positive,” Hovde noted. “Each of the teachers that responded in the survey said that having their classes visit the trail would be beneficial. They liked the idea of fixing it up.” Potential concerns brought up in the survey by the instructors included the needs for adding a bathroom facility, more parking that would make it easier for buses to navigate and making the trail ADA handicap accessible.
If you’d like to contribute to the Nature Trail project, please send your donations to:
Mayville Park District
PO Box 315
Mayville ND 58257
To be able to kick-start the project, funding will need to be secured for those three areas. Hovde noted that the plan would be to complete the bathroom, parking lot and bridges to make the area ADA handicap accessible, then the work on the trail can begin. “There’s a lot of work to be done before we can get going on the trail itself,” he said. “A majority of the funding will be going to the infrastructure of the project. Once we get those three areas taken care of, we can move forward.” If everything goes according to plan, the trail would be ready for school use in the fall of 2018.
Hovde noted that the project is not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination. To begin work, funding for all three phases of the infrastructure will need to be secured. “We won’t start until we have enough money for the bathrooms, parking lot and to make it handicap accessible,” he said. “There’s no point in doing it halfway.” This spring, the project received funding from the Garrison Conservancy District. Through a grant written by the Mayville Park Board, $13,500 was provided for the rejuvenation efforts at the trail. It was a recreation matching grant that needs to be used within the next two years. David Torgeson, Mayville Park Board, and Hovde presented information to the Garrison Conservancy District. “It was positive.
If you apply for a grant for over $5,000, you present to the Garrison Conservancy District,” Torgeson said. “These type of grants have been a great thing for our park board. We have used funds from Garrison to help with the revamping of two Mayville parks in the last five years. It’s been excellent, we are very grateful for the efforts of the Garrison Conservancy District.” Hovde and Mehus are waiting to hear back regarding their grant application to MPEDC. The duo has also discussed other potential ways to receive funding. “All the feedback we have received has been pretty positive,” Mehus said. “We have been getting ideas of different places to go and people to talk to about the project.”
Torgeson noted that the park board is serving as a liaison on the project, assisting Hovde and Mehus through the grant process. “It’s a project that is spiraled into something bigger than expected. The science club is really working to make this more of a permanent fixture in our community,” he said. The park board pointed out that the project has potential to be a very important one for the entire region. “I think the Nature Trail is something unique to our area. It’s not something that just benefits one school or town, it would be a positive project that would impact surrounding areas as well,” Torgeson said.
The hope is that the Nature Trail would have dual purposes in the community and the region. For Hovde, the area has potential to be a hub for local schools. “The benefit to have a place like the Nature Trail to spend a day to study about science and the environment in an outdoor space is huge,” he added. “We believe student engagement will be much higher students when they have an opportunity to learn in a natural habitat.” Hovde and Mehus also believe the space would be greatly used as a park and a spot to enjoy nature. With opportunities for hiking, bird watching, fishing, soil testing and studying trees, the potential list of activities is huge.
“There is so much biodiversity when an aquatic area meets a wooded area,” Hovde said. “It’s a very quite place with all types of nature present. What more can you ask for?” Mehus feels that by cleaning up the trail and adding components such as a restroom, the Nature Trail could provide an economic boost by being an attraction for local schools and outdoors enthusiasts. “It’s both an economic investment and a public service investment. There will be move individuals and students visiting the community, which is definitely positive,” Mehus said. “With that, it’s a nice bonus for families in the area, and can be a positive deciding factor for families with children to potentially move into the community. Parks and nature trails provide a lot of entertainment and learning opportunities for individuals of all ages.” Ultimately, the duo’s goal is not only to rejuvenate the trail but to do so in a manner that is sustainable for the park board who will ultimately assume control of the trail once it is restored.
“The end goal is for the Nature Trail to be fixed up and turned over to the Park Board,” Hovde said. The Mayville State University Science Club is hoping to create exhibits and activities with the intention of enhancing visitor’s experiences at the Nature Trail. In fact, the two professors have received materials from when the Nature Trail was first established in the 1970s. Hovde hopes to mimic some of the activities and information from the pamphlets used by science classes more than 40 years ago. “I would love to see the space returned to its original use and even add to it,” Hovde said. “There is so much potential in this project.”
A reprint from the July 29, 2017 Traill County Tribune, article by Harry Lipsiea