Monday, June 10, 2013

Coming to Fort Lincoln

Coming to Fort Lincoln

By Matt Schanandore

In a world where information travels the globe at the speed of light, and our finger tips are the magic wands of our mind, sorting, swiping, and scrolling through an endless universe of information. we still find the need and an interest to see, touch and experience the stories of the past and present for ourselves.  
There is so much about what we do as interpreters that is part of human nature, but yet can be so foreign to many. I am an interpreter, and to describe our line of work, as my grandmother would say, we are simply storytellers. “We tell stories to remember and learn from the days that have passed and to plan for the days in our future.” We naturally tell stories about us, from a little tike, to an old age withered senior, we enjoy recounting our past and educating the future.  Many cannot take another’s past and tell it as their own. That is where an interpreter comes in, we tell stories about others. 

Our stories our not made up fantasies taking place on a distant planet, but rather in our own backyard. Our stories do justice to those people that lived before us and helped shape the human story. We tell about love, friendship, loss, and about life as a family. The characters in our stories sometimes are truly the birds and the bees. We explain steps of life, death, and living life in harmony with nature, we talk about relationships good and bad, and every story contains a little about our own life, and world. Our stories are about the world we see, the world we can touch, the world we can experience. That is Interpretation. 

Today, I sat atop the large earthlodge at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. It is by far my favorite place to sit looking out over the south end of the On-A-Slant Village and down to the Missouri River.  I’ve been walking this village for many years now telling its story, as a young man now looking back, that was a lot longer than I would have ever expected. I’ve realized long ago that there is something about this place that continues to comfort me. Maybe it is the peace that one can experience as the warm rays of the sun’s light overtake the park in the morning. It could be the many people we meet in a summer traveling from many different places, places that I may travel to someday. I think most of my staff feels that they also have stayed a lot longer than they expected, maybe it could be something in the water. We will never know. 

I have stayed because of the chance I get to interpret the story of people that have lived here, their lives and marks left behind on this place. Something, I think we all desire to do in our own lives. Whether we were simple farmers like the Mandan or like General Custer a legend to generations past and present, we all hope that, we to, will be remembered for our role in the human story. As interpreters we leave our mark on every visitor we greet, every visitor we get to know, and each visitor that comes to experience a true story. In the end our job is never done, it just closes for the season. 

This year the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department welcomed my staff and me into its family. It’s been a smooth transition one that will take time as we venture forward on the same path together, but the future is very bright. I’m amazed looking back on the changes that this park has seen, from the early caretakers, the Mandan Indians to General Custer and his famous Seventh Cavalry, to the Civilian Conservation Corps, to the North Dakota Historical Society, to the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation, and most recently the baton was handed fully to the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department. Each group having been stewards of the land and its story: each leaving behind something that will carry the park’s story forward. They all had a reason to be part of this place and they all became part of its story. Now starts the next segment in its story.  

The story of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is one that will never end it will always continue to go forward, forming new relationships and forging new beginnings.  As the current caretakers grow old and leave this place so will come a new generation of individuals looking to interpret the story of this place and they will continue their work as so many have been doing for centuries. 

I tell me staff “This is our story, not just a story of old or a story of new, but a story worth telling over and over again.” This is a quite place along the river once called Miti-Ba-wa-esh, Fort Abraham Lincoln D.T., and now Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, but has forever been called…home.

Come, Visit, and be part of the story of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sports shows indicate it will be a busy year

Gordon Weixel
Public Information Officer
The message is clear, it’s been a long winter and people are itchin’ to get outside and have a good time, whether it be camping, fishing, hiking, biking, or you name it… North Dakota’s state parks are going to be busy this year.

At least that’s my takeaway following the completion of the recently completed outdoor sports shows held in Bismarck, Grand Forks, Minot and Williston. If you had a chance to take in one of these shows and stopped by the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department booth you possibly talked to me or one of the park staff that helped out that included Grahams Island manager Henry Duray, Turtle River manager Steve Crandall, newly appointed Fort Stevenson manager Chad Trautman, Lewis and Clark manager Greg Corcoran and rangers Keith Orth, Dan Ryba and Ryan Nelson.

My first indication it’s going to be a good year were the number of annual vehicle passes that were sold at the shows. In the past there have been requests for between 30 or 40 passes. This year over 30 were sold at Minot alone, and all told, nearly 60 were sold.

Another tell that it’s going to be a good year for park visitation, were the number of materials that were given out at the booths. I usually take enough stuff and a lot comes back to headquarters in Bismarck. But this year there wasn’t much that came back, in fact, packing up was fairly easy. 

People were particularly interested in the hiking guides and the brochure on the new Pembina Gorge motorized trail. Trails for off-highway vehicles on public land are few and far between in North Dakota, and over the past few years popularity of ATVs has seen a tremendous growth. In response to the growing demand, the NDPRD created the Pembina Gorge trail which held its grand opening last year. The 12-mile trail, which is available to OHVs, will be doubled this year with an additional 12 miles scheduled to be created this spring.

At each show the NDPRD held a drawing for those visiting the booth and filling out an entry with name, address, phone and email. This year’s winners were Debra Ludwig (Williston), Shane Lider (Minot), Craig Sharp (Grand Forks) and Lucilda Herman (Bismarck). The NDPRD appreciates all those that stopped by and filled out entry forms.

This year the Minot KX Sports Show was far and away the busiest, as it usually is. This year the Minot Show offered the “Dock Dogs” competition which was a great draw. The Bismarck Tribune Sports Show also held Dock Dogs, for the third year, and it was among the best shows in several years. The Grand Forks Men’s Show had a very busy Saturday as did The Williston Sports and Recreation Show.  Hopefully, next year each show will be even bigger and better, and you can be sure the NDPRD will be represented.
Gordon Weixel

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The 5 W's (and one H) of Summer Employment

By Stacy High - Administrative Assistant

Who: You! Do you want to work outdoors this summer? Do you want to have fun while earning money? Consider a summer position at one of North Dakota’s state parks!

What: State Parks are looking for seasonal administrative assistants, maintenance personnel, park attendants, interpreters/historians and park rangers.
Where: North Dakota State Parks which are located across the state and there’s sure to be one close to you.

Why: North Dakota Parks and Recreation is a great place to work!
Stacy High-
Administrative Assistant

When: Applications are now being accepted.  
How: Job applications and more information can be found at:   Applications should be sent directly to the parks you are interested in working at.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Snow Science

by Amy Schimetz - Interpreter and Lake Metigoshe Outdoor Learning Center Coordinator

People often look outside in the winter and simply comment, whether good or bad, on the snow.  However, many don’t give much thought what snow is made of, how it’s made or why there are both large and small flakes.  The science behind snow is fascinating.

Snowflakes are made of ice crystals forming around tiny bits of dirt that were carried up into the atmosphere by wind.  When the dirt particles reach clouds where temperatures are below freezing, ice crystals form around them and create snowflakes. Each snowflake is six-sided because of the shape and bonding of water molecules.  A snowflake can be made from as many as 200 ice crystals. As the snow crystals grow, they become heavier and fall toward the ground.

It is said that no two snowflakes are alike, but they can be classified into types of crystals: needles, columns, plates, columns capped with plates, dendrites and stars.  The type of crystal depends upon humidity and temperature present during formation.  That’s why when it’s very cold and snowing, the flakes are small and when it’s closer to 32 degrees, the flakes are larger. 
Amy Schimetz-Interpreter
Take a closer look to see if you can classify some snowflakes.  Since they melt so quickly you need to freeze a dark piece of paper or cloth by leaving it outside for several minutes. Put some snowflakes on the dark surface and examine them, perhaps with a magnifier. Don't expect to easily find a perfect six-sided snowflake. They occur less than 25 percent of the time because snowflakes have a bumpy, difficult journey on their way to earth. Each flake is buffeted by wind, water and other snowflakes. However, with persistence you'll see some beautiful examples.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Day in the Life of Green and Khaki

by Nessa Schrank -Administrative Assistant Turtle River State Park

Working at Turtle River State Park but living in Grand Forks gives me a 20 mile commute every morning to see the beauty that nature offers. The morning commute gives me the opportunity to see a lot of things people in town don’t have the opportunity to see.  Some of these visual treats include the ice covered trees sparkling in the sun along Highway 2 and seeing just how much snow really accumulated the night before (since we all know the forecasts aren’t always correct). As my car follows the road that curves around the front marsh into the park I can always count on seeing some type of wildlife Turtle River State Park has to offer, whether it is the hairy and downy woodpeckers, blue jays, or white-tailed deer. 
Working as an Administrative Assistant means I spend a lot of time in the office. You may see me with my face buried in paperwork, or yapping away on the phone taking reservations for the year round rental facilities that call Turtle River State Park home. There are always plenty of Thanksgiving and Christmas parties eagerly being booked in the upper level of the Chalet especially since the new handmade wood furniture and fireplaces really add that “comfy in nature” feel to the space. The Woodland Lodge is getting its fair share of calls this time of year with anxious brides planning their weddings for the summer of 2013. 
When I’m not buried in paperwork, taking reservations, or ordering new merchandise for the gift shop for visitors to take home as memories of their fun filled stay at the park, I’m actively using one of the finest skill sets every park employee must learn to master.  What is that skill set you ask?...WELL, that would be the fine art of upside down map navigation. In order to show newcomers where they are headed to take a hike on the trails, or where the best place to spot those white-tailed deer are, we need to possess the ability to read that map upside down and backwards…what an interesting task! There are many fine talents among the staff at any of our ND State Parks.

Nessa Schrank-
Administrative Assistant Turtle Rver State Park

We encourage you to come on out, see the winter beauty the outdoors has to offer, and appreciate the talents all staff possess. Every park, statewide, looks forward to seeing your smiling faces!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Frozen Wood Frog

by Amy Schimetz - Interpreter and Lake Metigoshe Outdoor Learning Center Coordinator

One of the most common frogs in North Dakota is the wood frog, which is prevalent in areas north and east of the Missouri River.  It’s easily identified by its dark mask around the eyes.  The wood frog lives near moist wetlands.  Their range extends farther north than any other frog, having been found in shallow ponds located in the Canadian tundra. 

The wood frog baffles scientists as it is an extreme hibernator.  It has the ability to basically freeze solid and come back to life every year. 

When winter temperatures and snow falls, the wood frog pulls water from its limbs into the center of its body.  This puts its organs in a puddle of water, which turns to solid ice.  Soon, there is no breathing, no functioning kidneys and its heart actually stops for days or even weeks depending upon the winter.  Before the frog flooded itself, it produced a type of sugar that works like antifreeze so the cells stay moist enough to hold together when freezing.  When spring comes and the frogs begin to thaw, water flows back into the cells, the heart starts to beat once again and the frog begins to breathe.  Within a day or two, the frog appears to come back to life, stretching out its limbs and hopping away.  Wood frogs are able to do this year after year.

Amy Schimetz - Interpreter
Scientists are still trying to figure out how it’s possible for the wood frog to accomplish this amazing task.

Check out this video on YouTube to see this amazing freezing/thawing frog in action.

Friday, February 1, 2013

 The Life and Times of a Park Maintenance Supervisor in Winter

By Tyler Modlin, Maintenance Supervisor Fort Stevenson State Park

Well, it’s the off season or so they say, but it seems like there is never a lull in activity for the NDPRD.  We have individuals at headquarters that are working hard regarding the legislative session and all that entails, law enforcement officers enforcing snowmobile laws and regulations around the state, biologists working on plans for weed control and tree planting, managers and rangers gearing up for the upcoming camping season. So what does the Maintenance Supervisor do?

The Maintenance Supervisor during the winter is just the guy that goes out fishing daily and, for a few months, seems to keep his hands clean of dirt, oil and grime right?  If so please let me know where that job is.  Even though it’s winter, there is always something that needs fixing or repair. For Maintenance, it’s time to get to those projects that were put on the back burner during the summer season and to gear up for the upcoming camping season.

Due to being one of the most visited parks in the department, our picnic tables took a beating.   This winter is a prime time to re-furbish those tables, so they are nice and ready come summer.  We stripped and waxed our concession floor, so it looks brand new and inviting come those warm temperatures when ice cream sounds like a better deal than hats and gloves.  Repairing dumpsters is another fun thing to do during the winter; somehow the dumpsters get bent and beat up during the season.  Going through our mowers is a major part of winter maintenance operations, making sure they are up and running in top notch for next summer. Bearings, spindles, and motors…oh my!

My Buddy
I still get outdoors weekly to groom the cross country ski trails and recently have become buddies with a Great Horned Owl that seems to follow me while grooming.  We are either buddies, or he thinks I am dinner. 

Then there is the boring paper work stuff that needs to get done such as preparing the maintenance work plan for the summer including pesticide application, trail maintenance, building maintenance, grounds upkeep and tree planting.  I would rather have the grease and grime than paper cuts.
Tyler Modlin
Maintenance Supervisor Fort Stevenson State Park

With that, I hope you all have a wonderful new year and hope that you visit one of the great state parks located in wonderful North Dakota.  Now it’s time to go check my tip ups for some fish! (Kidding) 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

2013 Legislative Session and ND Parks and Recreation

By Arik Spencer, Recreation Division Manager

The 63rd North Dakota Legislative Assembly is well underway and the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department (NDPRD) is tracking nearly 20 bills which impact the department in one way or another. HouseBill (HB) 1019 is the most significant of these as it authorizes funding for NDPRD parks, programs and construction projects for the next two year budget cycle. Also of interest is HB1278 which would create a new ND Outdoor Heritage fund to support conservation and park and recreation efforts. This bill is supported by the department and would establish a 30,000,000/biennium fund controlled by the Industrial Commission, which would then award grants to state agencies, political subdivisions and non-profits. This bill has broad support from the conservation, recreation, agriculture, business and energy industries, all of which testified for passage of the bill.

While both HB 1019 and HB 1278 deal with funding for NDPRD, some bills affect NDPRD staff which is the case with Senate Bill (SB) 2134. SB2134  adds NDPRD law enforcement officers to the Workforce Safety and Insurance Presumption Clause, which covers law enforcement personnel with additional insurance benefits in the case of a death, injury or work related illness. Currently NDPRD law enforcement officers are the only state law enforcement agency not covered by the Presumption Clause. In addition to SB 2134, there are a number of other bills which affect state employee pay, travel expenses and retirement which are tracked by NDPRD. To learn more about these bills and others, check out the website for the ND Legislative Assembly at

Arik Spencer
Recreation Division Manager

Monday, January 28, 2013

ND State Park Rangers and Law Enforcement in ND State Parks

By Erik Dietrich - Motorized Recreation Coordinator

What exactly does a Park Ranger do?  Park Rangers wear many hats including those of a fire fighter, forester, biologist, interpreter, maintenance to name just a few.  They visit schools to talk about history, interpretive programs, safety education and much more.
One hat that some people don’t know Park Rangers wear is that of a law enforcement officer.  The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department has 24 Park Rangers that are full-time law enforcement officers with the same ticket writing authority and arresting powers of any highway patrolman, county deputy, city police officer or game warden.  Most park visitors do not see Park Rangers in that capacity, but it is there just the same. 

Erik Dietrich
Motorized Recreation Coordinator
During the busy seasons, our state parks and recreational areas can have as many visitors in a single park as residents in a small community.  With that many visitors in a single park, there is a definite need to have law enforcement personnel close by.  Park Rangers fill that need and do it with a smile!  Park Rangers deal with many issues ranging from underage drinking, family domestics, hunting violations and snowmobile and off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail enforcement to name just a few.  Park Rangers strive and make state parks and recreational areas a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors!  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Becoming an Outdoors Women (BOW)

By Amy Schimetz - Interpreter and Lake Metigoshe Outdoor Learning Center Coordinator 

Twice a year, in the summer and winter, the North Dakota Game & Fish Department puts on BOW workshops at Lake Metigoshe State Park.  Although the BOW workshops are designed primarily for women, they are open to anyone over the age of 18 with an interest in the outdoors.
The workshops provide an opportunity and atmosphere to learn skills usually associated with hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities in a comfortable setting with others who have similar interests and perhaps questions.  They are great workshops to come to whether you are going to come by yourself or drag your friend, sister or mom with.  Either way, you’ll get some great instruction with the opportunity to ask questions, test and use related equipment, perhaps pick up a new hobby or simply try something out knowing you may make a fool of yourself in front of others doing the same thing!

The 2013 winter BOW workshop is scheduled for Feb. 22-24.  The winter workshop may include snowshoeing, dark house spearfishing, cross-country skiing, winter survival, wild game cooking, winter camping, geocaching, ice fishing, winter birding and more! 

The 2013 summer BOW workshop is scheduled for Aug. 9-11.  Dutch oven cooking, butterfly identification, shot gunning, archery, canoeing, kayaking, fly fishing, orienteering, outdoor photography, and backcountry camping/hiking are among the opportunities the summer workshop provides.

Amy Schimetz
Interpreter and Lake Metigoshe 
Outdoor Learning Center Coordinator 
No matter your level of experience or interest, the BOW workshops have something for everyone.  Please consider registering for these great opportunities at Lake Metigoshe State Park where you can “Play in Our Backyard!”  Further information and registration forms can be found at or by calling the North Dakota Game & Fish Department at 701-328-6312. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Parks Day at the Capitol

By Kevin Stankiewicz, Recreation and Trails Grant Coordinator 

The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department (NDPRD) is hosting Parks Day at the Capitol on Jan. 23 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.  

With the 63rd legislative assembly in progress, this is an opportunity for state park personnel to showcase all the “good stuff” state parks have to offer.  

Both park personnel and headquarter staff will be available on-site to answer questions and provide information to North Dakota legislators, as well as the general public.  Joining us in the booth area will also be some of our partners: North Dakota Recreation and Parks Association, Sodbuster Association and North Eastern North Dakota Heritage Association.  

Whether new to the area, visiting, taking a lunch break or perhaps you work at the capitol, stop by and find out what’s happening in North Dakota State Parks in “2013 and beyond!”

Does that last phrase in quotations remind you of any movie?  Ah yes, Toy Story, and the memorable mantra of Buzz Lightyear, “to infinity and beyond!”  Nice segue hey?  Except I am not looking ahead to infinity rather back into history, 50 years for that matter.  The NDPRD will be commemorating its 50th anniversary in 2015.  Past, future, past, future…well which is it?  I guess a bit of both.  

By Kevin Stankiewicz, Recreation and Trails Grant Coordinator
Nevertheless, many North Dakotans and visitors alike have benefited over the years from North Dakota’s state parks.  When you stop to visit my booth during “Parks Day at the Capitol,” share your stories or offer up a suggestion or two on what North Dakota Parks mean to or has meant to you. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Recreational Trails Program - Grants

By Kevin Stankiewicz, Recreation and Trails Grant Coordinator 

The Recreational Trails Program is an 80/20 matching grant program that provides funding for motorized and non-motorized recreational trail projects.  The RTP is administered at the state level through the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, and federally through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). 

The application cycle opened Jan. 4, 2013 with a deadline of March 4, 2013 at 5:00pm CST. 

Applicants may request grant amounts ranging from a minimum of $20,000 up to a maximum of $150,000 and project sponsors must have at least 20% of the total project cost available at the time of the application.  Applications are available online.
By Kevin Stankiewicz, Recreation and Trails Grant Coordinator

Monday, January 7, 2013

Online Reservations

By Karen Assel, Assistant Field Manager 

In 2008 the ND Parks and Recreation Department (NDPRD) implemented an online application for campsite and cabin reservations in 11 state parks.  System use has increased 68 percent over the past five years! 

Online reservations are a win/win situation for both park visitors and staff.  The system is available 24/7 and shows real time reserved site availability, photos of campsites and cabins, and ready access to park events, fees and policies.  Online use takes the booking and fee collection task away from park staff, allowing them more time for direct customer service in the park.  Overall operations are more efficient when customers arrive at the park pre-paid with site confirmations in hand.

State Parks have always offered a reservation service; however, initially the only option was a phone call to the park.  Because we have limited park staff, it was hit and miss to catch an employee in the office to handle these calls.  In the mid-1990s we moved to a centralized reservation system operated by a Call Center vendor.  Approximately 21percent of park visitors still use the telephone option to book reservations.

Karen Assel
Assistant Field Manager
Charges for telephone reservations started at $5 per reservation in 1994.  In 2008 NDPRD increased the standard fee to $6 per telephone reservation and added a discounted $3 per online reservation charge.  

Due to increased Call Center and online maintenance costs, we are increasing these non-refundable reservation fees beginning January 1, 2013 to the following rates:

Online Price
Call Center Price

Single Campsite



Group Campsite